Home > Abusive relationships, divorce, Marriage, Psychology, relationships > Are You Stuck in an Unhealthy Relationship Pattern? Part Two

Are You Stuck in an Unhealthy Relationship Pattern? Part Two


hamster-wheelThis is part two of Are You Stuck in an Unhealthy Relationship Pattern? The last post examined your usual choice of romantic partner, which stems from early childhood relationship experiences and the faulty belief system you learned about relationships as a result.

Ultimately, the self-doubts and self-defeating beliefs you have about yourself and relationships are obstacles to having the kind of relationship your rational mind wants. Whether you’re aware of them or not, they shape the relationship choices you make. For example, do you believe that:

  • You have to work hard to earn someone’s love?
  • You have to prove that you’re “good enough” for someone to love you?
  • You must be perfect to deserve someone’s love?
  • You have to go along with, like, or agree with everything your partner likes or wants?
  • You need to ignore or hide your needs and feelings in order to meet all of your partner’s needs?
  • Your partner should “magically” know or intuit how you’re feeling and what you want without having to tell him or her?
  • Your partner should be able to meet all your needs?
  • Your partner should enjoy doing all the things you do and like all of the same people you like?
  • Your partner should prove he or she cares by spending money on you and paying for trips, dinners and gifts?

Whenever we make statements that use the words should, always, must, never, or have to it usually means we’re placing unreasonably high expectations on others and ourselves. This usually leads to anger, disappointment, hurt and frustration, which makes it difficult to have good relationships.

A faulty relationship belief system, which is tied to our fears and self-doubts in a self-reinforcing loop, perpetuate our poor relationship choices. For example, do you worry that:

  • You’re unlovable?
  • No one would love you if they really knew you?
  • You’ll eventually be rejected?
  • You don’t deserve love?
  • You’re cursed?
  • You’re not attractive enough?
  • You’re not thin enough?
  • You’re not smart enough?
  • You don’t make enough money?
  • You’re boring?
  • There’s something wrong with you?
  • You don’t deserve respect?

It’s hard to feel good about yourself and have confidence in your ability to be an attractive partner to others with this kind of self-defeating garbage floating around in your head. We develop our beliefs and fears about relationships from observing our parents’ or caretakers’ relationships as children and by how they treated us. In many cases, they weren’t ideal relationship role models. These beliefs cause us to choose people who treat us in ways that make us feel bad, which reinforces these negative feelings and doubts.

It becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy that can make us believe that we’re doomed to be alone or unhappy in relationships. As a result, many of us learned unhealthy relationship beliefs as children that still control our behavior to this day. An effective way to counter these faulty beliefs and fears is to challenge and reality test them to see if they’re true. Otherwise, you’re allowing what happened to you “way back when” to control your “here and now.” You don’t have to allow your adult life and the course of your adult relationships be defined by what happened to you as a child or teen.

You can take control of your life now. You don’t have to be dependent on the approval of others who aren’t likely to give it to you. You can let go of your old beliefs and adopt new ones. In some ways, it’s like flipping on a light switch in your mind. When you do this, you may see some things from the past that you’d rather not deal with, but they will continue to control you and lead you to make poor relationship choices until you do.

Next week, I’ll post part three in this series. It will focus on problematic relationship behaviors and coping strategies that tend to do more harm than good and contribute to staying stuck in an unhealthy relationship pattern.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

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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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Photo credit:

Man on hamster wheel on MarkYoungTrainingSystems.

  1. Christian single
    June 24, 2009 at 5:52 am

    This is completely informative post that gives guidelines to people who are still stuck in an unhealthy relationship and don’t know where to go and move on after a sickening relationship. Kudos to the poster and keep good post and helpful post coming!

  1. March 28, 2012 at 10:34 pm
  2. February 12, 2011 at 6:24 am
  3. November 17, 2010 at 2:50 pm

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