Do you fall in love with the same person over and over again? The name may change, but when the honeymoon ends you find yourself in the same old rut with the same problems you had before. Even if you have a PhD and tell yourself that you know better, there you go again. You can learn from your past if you are willing to look below the surface.
After spending time in therapy as well as a twelve-step group for codependents, Christa divorced her deadbeat addicted husband Jon, who had also been unfaithful to her, only to take up with Andre, another man who was an unemployed compulsive overeater. She maintained that Andre was not at all like her ex, although all her friends tried to make her see how similar the two were. She and Andre set up housekeeping together, and after a while she discovered that he wasn't looking for work very hard and he was also being unfaithful.
Christa was doing it again. She tended to fall for men who needed healing. She enjoyed feeling wanted and needed and thought of herself as a helper, someone who fixed birds with broken wings so they could fly again. The trouble was that the birds she chose rarely flew. They mainly continued to limp through life.
When Christa broke up with Andre she decided to break this pattern of unhappy love affairs. During her counseling session I asked her to perform an experiment. I suggested that she continue to socialize and go to places where she might meet eligible single men. However, the next time she was at a gathering she was to notice which man she would feel comfortable initiating a conversation with, and she also had to look for the man she was most intimidated by, someone she would hesitate to approach.
The next step was for Christa to engage each man in a conversation and see what she discovered. She had no trouble communicating with the man she felt attracted to. The talk flowed easily, and after a while the potential date told Christa how impressed he was with her and how much he could learn from her. He was interested in taking her out.
At first Christa felt flattered, but then she realized that he was another bird with a broken wing, and she had risen to the bait and turned on her "helper personality" full force. However, even with this awareness that she was "doing it again," she gave him her phone number.
The second candidate was a good-looking man who gave off an aura of confidence. Christa was nervous as she approached him and felt awkward talking to him. He wasn't very interested in her and quickly found a reason to move away to talk to someone else. She felt embarrassed and rejected.
When we discussed the outcome of her experiment, Christa realized that the reason she was uncomfortable speaking with the second man was because he appeared very confident. He didn't need fixing, and he wasn't attracted to someone like her who liked to fix people.
Although Christa had accepted a date from the first man, she knew that if she went out with him she would just be repeating the situation she had with Jon and Andre. She would take care of men, but they wouldn't take care of her needs, except her need to be needed.