Breaking Bad Relationship Patterns
Every time we break up we always vow to never make the same mistakes again and never to date that same kind of person. But once the next breakup comes around, we realize we’ve done exactly that, and fallen heedlessly into a destructive pattern. Getting caught in a pattern is exhausting not only because you blame yourself for your unhappiness, but because it makes rebounding more difficult, and forging connections with new people seem pointless and bleak, a Sisyphean task to overcome for little gain.
Here’s a few relationship patterns that we commonly fall into:
- Mistaking love for physical attraction
- Neediness and the need to rescue or be rescued.
- Choosing emotionally and physically unavailable people in relationships.
- Picking people who treat us poorly by being punishing, critical, controlling or demeaning
- Losing interest in our own personal interests and activities and become enmeshed with the one person and their interests.
- Remaining in or returning to unhealthy relationships.
- Beginning sexual relationships or becoming emotionally attached without really knowing someone.
- Fantasizing about who we think someone is, and being crushed when they fall short of that fantasy.
While there’s always room for self-examination, overdoing this runs the risk of worsening your understanding of the situation.
By taking the following simple steps, suggested by Dr. Diana Kirschner, you’re sure to be more productive in dismantling your destructive patterns.
A big step to take is to realize that you don’t have to date just one person. You need to play the field and date different types of people, date multiple people at once, and open yourself up to new experiences and see what kinds of people you actually, really like.
Drop the Baggage
Your practical mind tells you to “start liking different types of people.” This rarely works. If you try to to will yourself into liking the nice guys and the nice gals, you’ll still be attracted to the more dangerous, more scary, or more problematic types you always have liked.
Part of this problem is that relationships are a mirror. As long as you have emotional baggage, issues, old hurts, and negative assumptions about you and your life, you will only be attracted to people at the same level of insecurity and fear that you are. If you become willing to be insecurity and baggage free, you will find yourself only interested in emotionally healthy, happy people like yourself.
Make a Love List
Relationship expert Amy Spencer suggests that if you find yourself in a pattern, you should make a “love list.”
List what you’re looking for in a relationship – what you want it to be, and how you want to feel when involved with someone. Try not to obsess over the idealized person you’re looking for.
For example, don’t say, “I want someone with a sense of humor.” That opens you up to all sorts of people, many of whom might be an awful match for you. Instead say, “I want to laugh in my relationships.” This changes the focus from the imagined person you hope to find to what you yourself are looking for.
Such a shift prompts you to approach relationships differently and more realistically, and gets you thinking about your feelings and what you actually need, not what you expect someone to magically provide you with.
Lose Your “Type”
Ever notice how everyone who says they have a “type” is typically single and bemoaning the fact that they can’t find said anyone who fits their type?
When you limit your dating pool to those with whom you find an instant attraction, you sell yourself short. A “type” is nothing more than the imagined commonalities that connect past lovers. Why would you want to keep making the same mistakes with the same kind of people? The best way to enjoy dating is not to have a type. We all have preferences but the wider net you cast the better your chances will be.
To learn more about how to break destructive relationship patterns, check out my podcast Breaking Bad (Relationships).