Change your self-defeating relationship patterns to find the relationship you actually want.
We all know someone who chooses the wrong partner over and over again. From a distance we can see it unfold, but they seem to have a blind spot in their own patterns. We also know people who have relationships and can’t understand why they would choose that person. Some have relationship after relationship in which they choose the same partner with a different name and some choose someone who is a direct contradiction to their values. Why so many people settle for a partner who does not meet their needs? Why do women tend to sacrifice what they want and need in relationships? Why are they afraid to speak up and ask their partners for what they need? Why do men appear uncaring and disrespectful? Why do both men and women create the same patterns over and over?
1. Archaic Gender Roles
In tradition passed down from generation to generation, a “good” wife/girlfriend/daughter did whatever the man in her life asked or expected of her. While this has softened over the years, I think many women still hold on to some of these core beliefs. Many women feel like they are nothing without the approval of a man in their life. Sometimes, that means that they will settle for treatment that they do not deserve. They will allow someone to disrespect them out of a sense of duty or obligation. It also means that they will settle for a man who does not meet their ideas of a suitable partner and any man will do. This also means that they will shape themselves to be whatever that man wants to gain acceptance and hold his attention. How many of you know or have been the girl who changes who they are to be with someone? You may change the way you dress or behave. You may give up hobbies or music you like to impress someone or fit more easily into their lives.
2. Low Self-Esteem
We are all shaped by our experiences. Many women never learn to develop a sense of self worth outside of the approval of those around them. As children, we can be told directly or indirectly that our worth is based on how we behave or the extent we sacrifice for others. Even well meaning parents reinforce messages that damage self-esteem. How many of you were a “good girl” when you put everyone else’s needs before your own or shut your mouth to keep the peace? The media also plays a part in this because we are bombarded with messages telling us that we would be happy, beautiful or more successful if we only bought their products or looked like the women in their magazines. We begin to believe that we are not enough. With low self-esteem, we unintentionally attract people who will exploit this. Like a predator senses prey, people who want to control or manipulate us can sense our low self-esteem. By becoming involved with people who do exploit our vulnerabilities, it continues to deplete our self-worth further.
3. Daddy Issues
It is cliché, but it can definitely be true. Women who do not have healthy attachments with a male figure as they grow up, tend to have difficulties in relationships with men throughout their lives. When we don’t form secure attachments as we grow up, we do not “complete” certain stages of development and we have insecurity in our attachments in our subsequent relationships. From infancy, we work through stages of development. If we have caregivers who are emotionally unavailable or rejecting, we will likely struggle with attaching to people in the future due to trust issues. We also subconsciously try to “complete” this developmental stage which is why we tend to have patterns in the partners we choose for relationships. Just like when we learn to walk, we fall down and keep trying over and over again until we master the task.
When women struggle with these issues, she will likely put in all of the effort in the relationship and allow her partner to get away with little, if any, reciprocity. She will tend to do things they don’t want to do like get involved physically too soon or overextend herself to her own detriment. She will feel undervalued and unappreciated, but not feel confident enough to ask for what she wants and deserves. By building self-esteem and establishing boundaries, we will find appropriate partners that are willing and able to treat us the way we deserve to be treated. In these relationships, we make a healthy impossible unless we work through our own issues to identify and change these dysfunctional core beliefs. When we are complete and healthy people, we choose partners who are a compliment to our lives instead of choosing someone to fill a void. If we are healthy mentally and emotionally, we will attract people who are as well. Only when we are able to effectively address these issues and focus on what we want and need, we are able to cultivate healthy and satisfying relationships.
This article was originally published at Lewis Mental Health. Reprinted with permission from the author.