Most of us have had the experience of loving someone who didn’t reciprocate our ardent desires. How long did you keep the candle burning in your window? Sometimes it’s just a matter of time before the wax runs out or a breeze blows the candle out, or you meet someone new who takes your mind off the sputtering flame. But what to do when your mind won’t let go and you are stuck in the merciless merry go round of ‘what if’, ‘why not’ or ‘remember when.’
The previous column was addressed to a woman who didn’t understand why her boyfriend of several years had stopped returning her calls, emails, and texts. It’s hard to get over a relationship when you don’t understand why it ended. On the other hand, when people treat you badly, it should make it easier. When a person continues to pine over someone who doesn’t reciprocate their love and/or has treated them poorly, it’s time to look within rather than outward. They may have a repetition compulsion going on.
What is a repetition compulsion? It is a tendency to be drawn toward a situation or person that is reminiscent of a trauma or loss in one’s past. For example, someone who often felt emotionally abandoned as a child may be unconsciously attracted to people who become close and then suddenly detach and leave. The repetition compulsion can be an instinct to go ‘home’, to return to the familiar. It can also involve an unconscious reactivation of old attachment injuries in an effort to gain mastery over them or heal them. For instance, a child who experienced unpredictable moodiness or criticism from a parent may have felt it as an intermittent emotional abandonment. In response, they developed a pattern of compulsively trying to please in an effort to get love and avoid abandonment. As an adult, they might seek out a partner who tends to be on the cool and critical side and then do everything possible to win their love and approval. When it doesn’t work, they may feel that they are un-loveable, and then repeat the same cycle of over the top trying to please to get their basic relationship needs met. If you are having a hard time falling out of love with someone who does not reciprocate your feelings, you may have a repetition compulsion going on.
We don’t fall in love in a day. We shouldn’t expect ourselves to fall out of love in a day. It’s normal for it to take time for your feelings to fade. Trust that they will.
v Thought Stopping: This is a technique in which you make yourself stop thinking about the person and redirect your thoughts to a different topic that is pleasant or more realistic.
v Journal: Write about your feelings with an eye toward noticing any repetitive patterns in your relationships; Write a list of the qualities that describe your ideal partner. Describe the type of person that your ideal partner would be attracted to. Are you capable of being that person? If so, work on cultivating those qualities in yourself…being the person that your true ideal partner would be looking for. Spend time imaging your next relationship being all that you want it to be and get ready for it. Believe in yourself and positive possibilities.
v Get out of your own head by socializing and focusing on other people. Be open to meeting new people.
v Don’t give up. There are many fish in the sea. And given one wish, most people would wish to love and to be loved
Diana Weiss-Wisdom, Ph.D. is a Licensed Psychologist psy#12476 in Rancho Santa Fe, California, specializing in Pre-marital Counseling, Marriage/Couples Counseling, Stepfamily Counseling, and Couples Workshops. (858) 259-0146. www.cottageclinic.net
KEEPING LOVE ALIVE (A COUPLES WORKSHOP) An relationship education and enhancement program based on the theory and practice of Emotionally Focused