Do you find yourself sucked in by bad boy behavior? You know the type: The guy who cancels your date at the last minute but then shows up the next day, smiling, with flowers in hand. Or the man who makes you feel like one in a million when you’re together, but then goes 2 weeks without a peep. You tell yourself you’re done with him, but then, you find yourself drawn back in because it just feels so good- some of the time.
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If that’s your pattern, you’re not alone. That’s because riding the roller coaster of mixed messages-- the “pull me close- push me away”--- can be strangely enticing, intoxicating, and sadly, even addictive. But have you ever wondered why you keep putting up with it?
You might be relieved to discover that there is a proven psychological principle at play here that keeps drawing you back, like a moth to a flame. It’s called Intermittent Reinforcement and I‘ve dubbed it the Super Glue of the Dating Universe because it keeps great women like you stuck in bad behavior ruts.
Here’s how it works. Experiments in psychology have proven over and over that the human brain learns best whenever it is rewarded inconsistently. That means if a guy treats you well only 2 out of 4 times, you’re more likely to go back to him than if he treats you well every time you’re together.
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Sure, it sounds crazy, but it’s how your brain works! Once you’ve experienced the reward- you come to expect that there will be a reward and you’ll keep going back, waiting for that same closeness that felt so yummy. That’s how bad love can become so addicting, your brain is waiting for the next hit of endorphins that comes when you finally get what you want- the reward of being treated well.
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But it’s easy to see that this is a recipe for dating disaster! Who wants to be treated well only some of the time? That’s why it’s important to nip this pattern in the bud whenever it rears its tempting face. Even though that’s how our brains are wired, you can still take back control and insist on being treated like you deserve.
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The problem with Intermittent Reinforcement is that it can keep you glued to a painful relationship far too long, accepting poor behavior for months or even years on end. To break the cycle, it’s important to interrupt the pattern as soon as possible before your brain makes it a habit.