What are the pervasive relationship patterns that we repeat over and over?

It’s important to know that often the relationship patterns we are entrenched in are largely unconscious to us.  Suddenly, we find ourselves entangled in something and not sure how we got there, or how we didn’t recognize it sooner.  We are unaware that these patterns exist, so we can’t extricate ourselves from them.  We have been observing other people in our lives doing them since childhood.  They become the normal background of our lives; never questioning the veracity of these assumptions.  We come to assume that everyone is like that.

So, these relationship patterns are especially sneaky because they rule our lives without us knowing it, like a subliminal message under a television show telling you to eat chocolate.  You know something is amiss, but you can’t put your finger on it.  You feel powerless over your inability to find a healthy relationship.  If you want to change how your life is ruled by your subconscious thinking, you first must get to know your pitfalls!

Here are 5 examples of relationship patterns that rule your dating life:

Relationship Pattern #1:  “I must be polite no matter what.”

Maybe you’ve watched nasty behavior being accepted or going unchallenged.  Everyone sort of tiptoes around that behavior, so it appears that it is okay to behave in a rude manner.  You now ignore bad behavior.  However, it can be deadly if we ignore bad behavior in someone we are dating.  Instead of it being a warning sign, we view it as normal.  Suddenly, you wake up after years and realize that you are with someone who has been abusing you for years.

Sometimes we think it’s okay to treat people poorly.  Occasionally, couples come to me and are shocked that they are not allowed to be mean to each other.  They get into this habit because over years, their trust and love have eroded by daily doses of meanness.  The other problem with this pattern is, if you are always being nice, you never say what you really think.  If you do that in a relationship, your spouse will never really know who you are.  In reality, you will remain strangers living in the same house.  If you got the message that it was never okay to be angry, then you could wind up being in an unfulfilling relationship with no true connection to your deeper self.

Relationship Pattern #2:  “I don’t talk about myself.”

If you are a very private person, or you feel that what you have to say is unimportant or might be ridiculed, you may have decided to keep quiet.  This sets you up to be the perfect person for a very narcissistic mate!  Narcissistic people are more than happy to talk about themselves and dominate the conversation.  You think this is great, because you don’t really like to talk.  You feel uncomfortable opening up, and they can be very entertaining!  Then, oops, you realize later, sometimes much later, that the person you are with really only cares about themselves.  This makes for a lonely life, one where your needs are ignored.

Relationship Pattern #3: “I must rescue and fix others.”

One example of this is if your father was an alcoholic who always got himself and the family into trouble.  Now, you try to head off any problems at the pass.  You always try to predict what could go wrong, then try to fix it before it happens.  You pick people who need lots of help.  They become your project, like someone who likes to purchase fixer-upper houses.  In the end, you wind up feeling unappreciated and exhausted.

The hope is that one day these people in your life will be finally fixed and then you’ll get your needs met.  However, no matter what you do, it backfires because you can’t fix them. People who need that kind of help need to work with a professional to get beyond most of their issues.  Your assistance in many cases enables their behavior because you bail them out and unknowingly allow them to continue in their pattern of doing the same things.  Only they can resolve their issues and only in their own time. Your work is to realize that the only person on the planet that you can fix, is yourself.

Relationship Pattern #4: “I choose people who put me on a pedestal.”

This can start off wonderfully, because you feel like you are a million dollars when they are with you; all the attention feels so great.  It’s seductive to be worshipped, especially for people who never received approval from their family growing up.  Perhaps you came from a huge family or a single parent family where you didn’t get a lot of attention from mom or dad. You may feel like you need someone who pays lots of attention to you, shares regularly how they feel about you and has lots of time for the relationship.

Problems arise when this loving attention turns into treating you like a possession.  Your partner can become extremely jealous of anything you do.  They seek to control your time and keep you locked away for themselves.  As this pattern evolves, any attempts you make to pull away cause your partner to become more possessive and controlling. Resentment builds as your world shrinks down to the four walls of your home and often people become secretive and afraid.  The worry that your partner will explode with envy at the mention of friends, coworkers or any activities that don’t include them, keep you pushed down and alone.  When this happens, it’s common for your self esteem to plummet, often causing increased depression and anxiety.

Relationship Pattern #5: “I could be betrayed, hurt or abandoned, so why bother getting  close to anyone at all?”

The thinking here is that if you never get close to anyone, you won’t get hurt.  The problem is that this tactic, which is really an attempt to avoid being abandoned, causes you to actually abandon yourself making it impossible to get your needs met.  No matter how right a person is, you always find a reason to dump them before they dump you.  Your dating becomes a series of preemptive strikes against the opposite sex.  You really don’t trust anyone to be there for you, and you don’t trust your own ability to pick a good mate.

For whatever reason, as soon as you feel like you are getting too close, an overwhelming feeling comes up that you must run away, or that you are trapped.  Maybe the other person suddenly becomes unattractive, or has some negative quality that you decide is a deal breaker.  The most important thing becomes: I must get free!

This situation is a double-bind because when your fear comes up, your impulse is to run away to avoid the possible pain of a broken heart.  But, if you force yourself to stay, your fear is always in the forefront of your mind and it can feel impossible to relax and be happy in your relationship.  The only way out of this is to dig into the real fears you have and this is often work you need to do with a professional therapist who has some experience helping clients deal with abandonment.

If you’re someone who has been in a relationship or two like the ones listed, that’s not necessarily indicative of a true pattern.  But, if you’ve been in multiple, repeated relationships that match these descriptions, perhaps it’s time to seek out the help of a professional who can help you dissect what’s really going on.  I can use tools such as Neurofeedback, Somatic Experiencing and EMDR to help manage the anxiety that often arises when dating.

If you’re curious about your relationship patterns, I may be able to help you determine why your relationships are not working out and what to do about it.  You’re welcome to send me an email mfoxmft@yahoo.com or call my office for a free phone consultation.  You can reach me directly at 310-314-6933.