Do you feel as if you seem to continually attract the same person again and again? I went through a good, solid three year period where I seemed to attract the same guy. Let's call him Mr. Hot or Mr. H. for short.
Mr. H. was always charming, and rakish. Sometimes he called, and sometimes he didn't. The big similarity was always an exciting, short term relationship where he became unreliable in equal measure to how high I got my hopes up. I was always confused about why this pattern happened, so after each failed romance, I would try to look for widely different types of guys to date.
I met Mr. H's who were artists, military men, members of academia, engineers, lawyers, and guys who worked at the local coffeehouse. I was trying, and seriously failing to get a different dating pattern into my life. Time and again, these mini relationships would follow a predictable pattern even though the actual man involved varied.
Like clockwork, the newest Mr. H. would arrive on the scene, say and do a lot of flattering things which got get me hooked right before he became maddeningly unreliable. Mr. H. should have had "hot and cold" tattooed on his forehead. Our pairings were super exciting, filled with lots of roller coaster peaks and depressing calls to girlfriends where I rambled on and on, trying to get to the bottom of why yet another guy had pulled away.
This pattern continued like clockwork until one day I realized something that hit me like a ton of bricks.
I was hooked on the drama. I was allowing Mr. H. to wreak havoc, because I had bought into Hollywood's concept of relationships where romance involves a lot of pain right there alongside the pleasure.
No one would show up to the theater to watch the happy couple be happy, day in and day out. Thus, there is the introduction of on-and-off relationship conflict. For example, our hero is "conflicted", and finally realizes that the heroine REALLY IS the one for him while she goes through a lot of drama. Once the realization that she was "the one" all along hits our hero like a lightning bolt, they ride off into the sunset together. But not before a heap of conflict, does this happen.
This pattern looks romantic on the surface, but it actually involves a lot of hot and cold, unreliable behavior that is allowed to continue. This is how I thought that relationships were supposed to work. Hence, this pattern was not only acceptable, but a normal part of my dating life. I figured that eventually the right Mr. H. would arrive, do his conflicted back and forth dance, and finally realize I was the one. Unfortunately, this is not how one fosters a healthy relationship.
Since this pattern is actually painful, why do people continue to allow it? There is a term in psychology called intermittent reinforcement that helps explain why the hot and cold pattern is like catnip.
Intermittent reinforcement comes from B.F. Skinner's work on conditioning. Skinner found that when he provided reinforcement to animals only some of the time, with no recognizable schedule, this was the best way to get them to continue the behavior.
To explain it in more real world terms, intermittent reinforcement is why people play the slots at the casino. They are rewarded for playing only some of the time, but they continue to play in HOPES that they will be rewarded. Rewards come randomly, but they come often enough to keep us sitting there, feeding the slot machine in hopes of a big payoff.
In a relationship with Mr. H., when he's great, he's really great— so much that we think, "well, maybe next time". We hope that things improve. If he pulled out all of the romantic stops, and everything was absolutely amazing last night, the next morning we are a lot more forgiving if he's hard to get ahold of, or if we sense something is off. When there is no discernible pattern of good behavior, we both continue to give him the benefit of the doubt, AND want to see where the path leads.
Before we know it, we're totally hooked. Then we call our girlfriends wondering what it was that we did to make him disappear, without considering that our real part is being hooked on excitement (and willing to participate), and waiting for crumbs.
In order to break this pattern, it is then 100% necessary to reprogram ourselves to respond to consistent love and attention. Especially if you've heard yourself say, "I only attract jerks", and feel like you always end up in these dramatic, go-nowhere relationships.
It's time to detox from the drama, and embrace a healthy experience of love. Only then we can finally say goodbye to Mr. H. for good.
Have you dated a Mr. H.? Tell me what you think in the comments.
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