Self-development

You’ll Attract a Harmonious Relationship on Autopilot Once You Understand This

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There’s no doubt about it, if you keep choosing the wrong partner (or have just done so once and are stuck) your childhood was messy. And you’re not alone. It happens to most people because our parents are flawed. And their parents were flawed. And their parent’s parents were flawed. You get the picture.

So, the same problems are handed down the generations. Somehow, no one stops to assess the situation and learn from past mistakes. They know their parent’s relationships (and childhoods) were disordered, and they seem to follow a similar destiny. Their fate looks inevitable.

Even though they sense something’s wrong, confusion abounds. The question of how to stop the generational messing-up pattern arises. If you’re lucky enough to have healthy role models, you already know how to behave to make love work.

If not, though, you might continue the family tradition of difficult drama-laden couplings. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel if you seek it. The first step out of the pattern is to recognize more about why you choose the wrong partners.

Why a chaotic childhood leads to relationship problems

Not only do you have poor role models if your childhood was messy, but your experiences could have left you with low self-esteem, difficulty spotting what a healthy relationship actually is, and the need to please.

What’s more, you might not recognize your partner’s unhealthy behaviors for what they are and imagine they are somehow your fault. Couple your confusion with fear of being alone, and it’s no wonder you draw the short straw in love.

You don’t see problems

It’s likely you rarely note problems until you’re in the middle of them. And even then, you are aware something’s wrong, but can’t put your finger on the actual cause of your anxiety. You aren’t happy, and deep down you imagine your experience is just how things are meant to be, so there’s no way to improve.

You aren’t a good friend to yourself if your self-esteem’s low. You put up with bad behavior and don’t leave. You imagine you’ve done something wrong and attempt to improve yourself rather than recognize the other person’s at fault.

Plus, you don’t want to disappoint anyone. There’s a sense of letting your partner down if you quit, and you won’t even leave for your own protection when things get rough.

Solution

If you’re chronically unhappy with your relationship, it’s time to look for repetitive behaviors. Do your relationship problems follow a similar theme? Maybe your partner always lets you down, cheats on you, or is emotionally unavailable. Or, you find yourself avoiding commitment, picking fault, or withdrawing just when everything seems positive.

When you spot a regular pattern, examine your youth. Do your relationships match a difficult childhood? Fear of abandonment, for instance, can make you clingy or the opposite. In which case, you have the urge to flee when you develop a close bond with someone.

Then again, perhaps your partners date your friends or treat you with disrespect? You could be attracted to them because of an unmet need to heal raw wounds from when you were young. We are drawn to people who reignite old experiences with unresolved outcomes. So, if a parent was emotionally distant, we find a similar partner because we want to solve the problem and figure out how to make everything better.

We may also end up in relationships that reflect difficulties in childhood because we are comfortable with them. It’s a case of “better the devil you know.” If you’re used to someone treating you in specific ways, you know how to handle it. It feels familiar, like home. Not a healthy, loving home, but home nonetheless.

Take steps to resolve childhood issues that repeat in your relationships and the pattern will stop. If your mother was never there for you when you needed her, for instance, the chances are your partners are aloof too.

It’s helpful to instill security when you’re single. You might note things that make you feel safe — financial stability and someone supportive to talk to, perhaps — and work to bring them into your life before you enter a new relationship.

You think you are to blame

Kids sometimes think they are to blame for their parent’s behavior or difficulties. When their parents argue, they imagine they somehow instigated the quarrel. If their parents file for a divorce, they believe they inadvertently made the break occur. When a parent shouts at them, they imagine it’s their fault because they are difficult to live with and love.

And when they grow up, they think mistreatment from their partner signals they are unworthy or hard to manage.

Solution

Separate your responsibilities from your partner’s. You are only responsible for your actions, including how you respond to events. You aren’t culpable for your partner’s behaviors. If someone is jealous, insecure, patronizing, mean, rude, disrespectful, cold, unloving, or aggressive, for instance, you are not to blame.

You don’t bring about mistreatment. You might be attracted to someone who behaves like one of your difficult parents. But just as you weren’t responsible for what your parents did, you are not culpable for the way your partner mistreats you.

You believe things will improve

As a child, you wished and hoped your parents would get along and be kind to you. After they messed up — raged, frittered away the grocery money, or fought — you breathed a sigh of relief it was all over. Until it happened again. Between those events, though, you secretly longed for everything to get better and tried to believe it would.

Now, you hang onto unhealthy relationships because you still hold the notion things will improve. You hope your hostile partner will stop drinking, cheating on you, or making hurtful jokes about you in front of your friends. But they probably won’t.

To top it all, your expectations are low, so the slightest sign of improvement — that never sticks — makes a bigger impact on you than it should. You are impressed when a bunch of roadside flowers are stuffed under your nose after a fearsome quarrel and your partner says they’ll never lash out at you again. Only they will.

The solution

Your relationships will improve if you create boundaries. You need rules about what you will and won’t put up with that nobody is allowed to break. Once they are in place, you’ll remember those benchmarks and look back at them to help you decide whether your partner acts fairly.

You fear being single

Many people are afraid to be alone. They often haven’t been single before and imagine they won’t manage if it happens to them. They can’t imagine not going on dates with a regular partner or living as part of a couple.

The solution

Everyone can benefit from being single for a while. One of the best gifts you can give yourself is the experience of discovering you can be happy by yourself. When alone, you get to find out who you really are, including your likes and dislikes when there’s no one around to sway your preferences or instigate compromise.

And when you know these things, you understand the traits you need in a partner if you’re to be happy. Choose to step out of your comfort zone and embrace being single and your autonomy and self-confidence will grow.

Niceness turns you off

The old saying “nice guys finish last” has an element of truth. They don’t really lose in the end, but often men or women who have low self-esteem aren’t initially drawn to them.

If nice partners make you uneasy or you find them unexciting, your past might be to blame.

Nice people rarely instigate drama or make waves because they are compliant (due to their own childhood issues) or well-balanced. The latter are ideal partner material. But you might not find them interesting if you’re used to turbulence.

The solution

Give pleasant, unexciting potential partners a chance. Recognize your unease, or lack of interest, doesn’t mean they are wrong for you. It means they might not be as screwed up as your usual choice of partner. You’re used to suffering and know it like an old (bad) friend. But it’s smart to develop healthier relationships.

You might be attracted to all the wrong people. Nevertheless, nature has plans for you. You are meant to seek the wrong partner, so you are prompted to learn and grow. Recognize what your liaisons show you about unresolved aspects of yourself and embark on healing. When you do, you’ll attract and be attracted to more harmonious relationships on autopilot.

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✨ Bridget Webber
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Writer, former counselor, author, and avid tea drinker learning how to live well.