6 Dead-End Dating Patterns—And How To Change Them

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Love

This is an adaptation from Sealing The Deal: The Love Mentor's Guide to Lasting Love by Dr. Diana Kirschner copyright Center Street, February 2011.

Have you ever wondered if you were missing something when it comes to having a relationship with a man? Do you sometimes get the sense that all men are screwed up? That love is too difficult? That you will never find that terrific guy who can rock your world? Well, you're not alone. Many women have experienced these thoughts and feelings. In this post you'll learn about the powerful force is at the root of your disappointments in love: your beliefs.

Beliefs underlie and shape our experience, our perceptions of reality, our moods and emotions and everything we say and do. We are aware of many of our beliefs but others lurk just underneath the surface. These hidden beliefs tend to shape the most important parts of our lives, without us being aware that they are doing so. Beliefs based on fear, abuse, past disappointments and loss can put up a complete roadblock on your journey to love. I call these the silent relationship killers.

How Killer Beliefs Work to Kill Off Love
Lasting, passionate love does exist—this has been proven by recent brain research! But it takes work, and a good part of that work is managing killer beliefs. When these destructive beliefs are not managed, they seize on any bump in the road as proof that your negative ideas about love are true. When you have a relationship setback, a jealous quarrel or experience heartbreak, you may start to think: Am I losing myself in this relationship? Is this too hard? Am I settling? Is he really the guy for me? If I open up my heart is he going to disappear on me? Am I going to be hurt? Your baggage from the past gets dragged into your present, killing off the vitality and joy of your relationship.

The trickiest part is that an intimate relationship tends to bring to the surface the disappointments of past relationships and even childhood wounds: the abandoning father, the judgmental mother, the first love who dumped you, the ex who took everything in a nasty divorce. Traumatic events cause our brains to rewire their connections so that they react to and are stressed by similar situations. When we break up with a long-term lover or husband or are betrayed by infidelity, our killer beliefs are reinforced, and the neural connections between love and disappointment are strengthened.

Don't think this happens to you? Meet Sharon, and see if her situation sounds familiar.

It's Sharon's birthday and when her guy didn't make a fuss over her, it brought up a defining and critical experience from adolescence where her father ignored how good she looked in her prom dress and made a fuss about her sister instead. It was in this pivotal scene from childhood that Sharon first decided that she was unlovable. Layered upon that are scenes from guys she dated who simply disappeared out of her life. So in dealing with her current boyfriend who ignored her birthday she revisited the killer belief, "I can't have love because I'm not lovable." This cascaded into a second one, "All men let you down in the end." And finally, "This relationship is not working." These core beliefs emerged because of a simple breakdown in the here-and-now.

The breakdown starts with not taking his disappointing behavior at face value. Instead of being present and looking at what happened, you take the disappointment as proof of your core negative beliefs. You assign it meaning above and beyond what actually occurred. He forgot my birthday. This is the fact. All the drama about your unlovability and everything falling apart is just a story you concocted.

Instead of taking the healthy road—saying in a loving way that you are disappointed and showing your boyfriend how to make it up to you—you worry, fret, sulk, whine, criticize and distance yourself. Instead of showing him how to be your knight, how to come through and to win you over, your attention is stuck on how impossible relationships are; how depressed you are because there is something wrong with you; what a jerk he is; and/or how this relationship is going nowhere. You subject yourself to a whirlpool of suffering.

With normal fears it is easier to ask for and receive reassurance from your partner. This is quite different from the depressive gravity and the often unconscious nature of killer beliefs. So, with that in mind I urge you to read all the following killer beliefs and do the exercises that follow, being honest with yourself so that you become aware of their appearance and impact on you.

Killer Belief #1: There Are No Good Men
Other variations on this theme:
• All men are jerks.
• All men are babies.
• All men are cheaters.
• All men are liars.
• All men let you down in the end.
• All the good ones are taken.
• All the available men have defects.
• All the available men are losers.

This killer belief usually surfaces in two different ways: a dead-end dating pattern where every single contender is perceived as having a fatal flaw; or, as out-of-control fears of rejection and abandonment that nullify feelings of trust and shut down a woman's heart.

The "Not-Perfect-I'll-Pass" Problem: This is the notion that all the good guys are taken and only the defective ones are available. This guy is too paunchy, too bald, too old, too young or even too good-looking and that one has hands that are just too small. Other deal breakers: bad taste in music, a cheesy sense of humor, loves me too much, is too predictable, or used the wrong table fork.

These complaints—including the typical ones that I've listed above—have nothing to do with the qualities that make for a partner who can provide lasting love and happiness. Study after study has shown that the most important variables that lead to happy relationships and marriages are a guy's (and your) character virtues, especially empathy, concern for others and a willingness to grow.

Instead of being nit-picky, change your perception to notice what is really at the guy's core in terms of his values and character. If you don't, your killer belief and the attitudes associated with it create negative and contemptuous vibes and emasculating, cold behavior that send men heading for the hills.

The "Chase Me" Problem: Maybe you're not Miss Picky when it comes to relationships, but the minute your boyfriend wants to move forward to a deeper commitment, you panic. You pull back and become unavailable or quiet or act crazy and dump him. Even if he acts lovingly, you insist to your friends that he doesn't really care about you. All this happens almost against your own will and for no reason having to do with him or the relationship. I call this pattern "Chase Me."

The "Chase Me" deadly dating pattern is all about fear. Deep down, you believe that no matter how good things are right now, it's not going to last: somewhere down the road there will be rejection and abandonment. The net-net is that you are the commitmentphobe. When you start to seriously fall for someone, you break up with him before he can hurt you. In this way you are in control of the heartbreak. What you really want is for the man to smash through the barricades you've thrown up, ride in on his white horse and claim you. But you never give him even the remotest clue, and because you've pushed him away again and again, he doesn't come after you. Women who operate under the "Chase Me" pattern usually wind up helping to create the very thing they fear: being abandoned and alone.

Warning Signs: You keep wondering why a woman like you who has so much going for her is single and alone. In addition, you may be lost in a whirl where you love him, you hate him, you just don't give a sh*t—and you can't stop yourself from acting bitchy or distant.

Killer Belief #2: I Will Never Have Lasting Love Because Something's Wrong With Me
Other variations on this theme:
• I can't trust my instincts, choices or judgment.
• I am unlovable.
• I am too old.
• I am too fat.
• I am not attractive to men.
• I am too successful.
• I am not successful enough.
• I have kids that get in the way.
• I have nothing to offer.
• I'm damaged goods.
• I don't know what's wrong with me.

This killer belief tends to create fears of being rejected that can play out in many different ways. You might be self-deprecating, where you put yourself down jokingly to guard against the rejection that you know is coming. You might say: "I'm a great person to fall for; I've got six kids and live in a rented shoe. Not really. But I do have teenagers that drive me crazy and our place is so tiny..." You may withhold information about your past or lie about your debt. You may push a man away altogether even though the initial courtship has gone well. Or you tolerate only so much closeness and if the guy starts showing real interest and commitment you react by rejecting him for no apparent reason. On the other hand, if you are saddled with this self-sabotaging belief, you may put up with a distant and unsatisfying relationship or even one where you are physically or verbally abused.

Warning Signs: You have many self-doubts, especially about your deservedness and attractiveness as a woman. It is very hard, if not impossible, to relax, be real and speak your truth with a man. You may over-give in order to gain the love of a man.

Killer Belief #3: True Love Does Not Exist; It's Just A Deal
Other variations on this theme:
• Men just use women.
• Only weak or needy people stay with each other.
• Relationships are merely tit-for-tat trade-offs, like a business deal.
• Lasting love is a made-up Hollywood and advertising fantasy.
• There are no really happy couples, only ones that have settled.
• Lasting relationships are not about love, they are about compromising for the sake of the children.
• The best I can hope for is (fill in the blank).

This killer belief creates cynicism and hopelessness about true, caring, passionate and fulfilling love. No matter how kind or caring the guy is towards her, this woman still wonders, "What is he after?" "Does he need a trophy woman to look good?" "Does he need help to get a new job?" Loving acts are seen as barter chips to get something in return. If a man feels only that cynicism, he will walk away.

Warning Signs: It is baffling: even though you are successful and can get what you want when it comes to your career, your skill sets don't work when it comes to attracting men and creating a love relationship. And you think they should work in that arena too!

Killer Belief #4: Love Is Too Difficult
Other variations on this theme:
• The price for love is too high.
• It's too painful.
• It could be angry, explosive and dangerous.
• I have to tip toe around in my relationship.
• I'll never get what I really want.
• I've seen what people go through and they end up miserable anyway.
• Love means suffering.
• Breakups damage you.
• You can never recover from a breakup.
• Relationships can cause you physical or emotional harm.
• We bring out the worst in each other.

This killer belief tends to fuel fears of being damaged or damaging to your partner. It is common when there has been anger and verbal or physical abuse in your upbringing or if you have an explosive temper yourself. The fear is that it is not safe to be in a close, intimate relationship—for you and/or for your partner. Sometimes this fear is unconscious and you can't really understand why people would make remarks like, "I have to walk on eggshells around you." On a conscious level you are painfully aware that somehow or other you manage to break free of any relationship with a future in it.

Warning Signs: If you are honest with yourself, you have to admit that you need to control your own over-the-top emotionality and drama. You need a relationship with a steady and empowered guy who gives you the sense that drama from either one of you will not be allowed to burst out and ruin things.

Killer Belief #5: This Is Not It
Other variations on this theme:
• It's not perfect.
• This does not match the image I had.
• This is not the way it is supposed to be.
• This is not my happily-ever-after
• He's not my soul mate prince.
• He doesn't look like my type, which is (fill in the blank).
• He's not good enough
• There's not enough chemistry.
• We're not a good match.
• We're going in different directions.
• This relationship isn't working.
• I am not willing to settle for less than my perfect relationship.
• This is not what I expected love to be like (look like) (feel like).

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The killer belief "this is not it" tends to create fears of settling for a relationship that is not like the script in your head. You have a fantasy, Technicolor version of the ideal relationship cobbled together from childhood images, fairy tales, romance movies and the like. The reality of what is happening now with your boyfriend does not match that picture. There is a great deal of anxiety about trusting the relationship and/or if he is really good enough. When he wants to move forward into a deeper commitment, you tend to pull back.

Warning Signs: You have never actually seen a real-life (movies and TV don't count) couple living out the totally fulfilling happily-ever-after relationship that you are going to have with your soulmate. You haven't met him yet, but you (kind of) believe he's coming and it's all going to happen one day.

Killer Belief #6: Relationships Mean That One Person Has To Give Him/Herself Up
Other variations on this theme:
• I can't be my real self in a relationship.
• I need too much.
• I have to do all the work to make the relationship happen.
• I am losing my identity in this relationship.
• I can't speak my truth.
• I can't get what I need.
• I can't win with this man.
• I don't have any power in this relationship.
• I have to be the way he wants me to be.
• He has to be the way I want him to be.
• I have to avoid conflict.
• I have to teach him what love is.
• I have to forget my needs and concentrate on fulfilling his.

This killer belief tends to create fears of being smothered or smothering your partner. The woman fears that she will create an empty, one-way relationship where one of the partners is completely taken over by the needs and wants of the other. Ultimately this belief and the behaviors that it fuels can lead to a relationship where you don't express your true feelings and real wants. That type of relationship is not only inauthentic, it is also boring and unfulfilling. In some cases, the woman ditches her friends and her independence to submerge herself wholly with the One; sometimes it is the guy who is desperate to please and bond with his partner.

Warning Signs: You give, give, give to make it work, 'til you can't anymore and you end up feeling empty, taken advantage of and pissed-off. Or you take up with an accommodating milquetoast and are bored, bored, bored. As we've discovered, it is your secret and not-so-secret killer beliefs that can destroy your relationships.

Facing Your Killer Beliefs: The Exercises

Exercise One: Identifying Your Killer Beliefs
Read through the killer beliefs a couple of times. Write down the ones that caused any kind of emotional reaction or imagery in your mind. Add any other self-sabotaging thoughts that cropped up while you were working with the list.

Exercise Two: How Your Killer Beliefs Play Out
Pick out at least one and as many as three of your killer beliefs. In a journal write out several real-life examples of how these destructive beliefs played out in a past relationship. Tell each story with: a) a beginning that describes your partner and how you came together; b) a middle that describes how the relationship worked when you were together; and c) how it all ended.

Now describe how these killer beliefs play out in your current relationship.

Exercise Three: Facing the Dead-End Future
Be brave and journal realistically about how things may end with your current partner if you do not identify and deal with your killer beliefs.

Exercise Four: Your Chosen Thoughts about Love
If you were your own best friend and love mentor, what helpful and loving advice would you give yourself that counters your killer beliefs? What thoughts would you like to have about lasting love? Write these out and post the paper in a private place, like your closet, where you will see it every day.

I am very proud of you for working on this! It takes a great deal of courage to dig deep to face painful thoughts, images, memories and feelings.

Click here to learn more about Sealing The Deal: The Love Mentor's Guide to Lasting Love by Dr. Diana Kirschner. 

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