Our personal relationship challenges are, for many people, the center of their lives.  When relationships are harmonious, they help someone thrive, get through tough times and set the foundation for a balanced, healthy life.  But when relationships are out of sync or worse, they are harmful or painful to be in, people can shut down and the worst of them can come out.

Young family at psychologist counseling meeting. Psychotherapy session. Couple psychological therapy

Every one of my clients has, on different levels, relationship challenges.  Some are simple to explain; others are the mainstay of their time with me.  Many go back to childhood… Do you know why?  It’s in those very special early relationships that we learned how to love other people.

Psychologists call this attachment and it’s a natural part of how we learn to make sense of the world.  How our mothers, fathers or caregivers loved us, taught us how to love others in return. Most importantly, how to love ourselves.

When this lesson about love wasn’t given freely, lovingly or easily, we may make up stories about what love means to our lives.  Many people walk around with hidden messages about how worthy of love they are. These faulty beliefs affect who they choose as dates, life partners, employers, and friends.

Working through these beliefs and correcting them to be more realistic and positive is a huge step in helping improve the quality of all relationships in someone’s life.

It sounds simple but it is true: the more you learn to honestly love yourself, the more love will come to your life.

This is the heart of the work I do with clients and it’s work I can help you with too. Whether you’re single and looking for love, healing a broken heart or working through a challenging relationship yourself, getting honest with yourself about the love you deserve in this life will change your situation.

If you’re ready to take the next step, please call me for a free consultation to find out the best course of treatment for you.  You can reach me directly by calling my office at 310-314-6933 or sending me a private email at mfoxmft@yahoo.com

Two articles that speak to relationship challenges that many clients struggle to feel good about are below. Enjoy!

 Five Relationship Patterns That Rule Your Dating Life

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

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, which create relationship challenges, 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 at 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 the 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.

5 Dating Tips: Kissing Frogs to Find Your Prince

Description: Practice these important dating tips to help maximize your chances of finding Mr. or Mrs. Right

When I was dating, I felt like my heart was a completely open book. Each man I met seemed to have wonderful qualities, but after a few dates or even a few weeks, something would often emerge that changed my mind.  The guy who was spontaneous really had a problem with commitment.  The guy who had a really steady job was really a work-a-holic. It was always such a disappointment.  The longer I was single, the more I started to ask the question of how could I ever know who someone was right away?

What I figured out over time was that there are a few simple rules to follow that would give me enough space to get to know a guy before giving my heart away.  If you’re looking for a few tried and true dating tips that actually work, I sincerely recommend you give these tips some thought.  Continue reading…

Dating & Career:

Not As Different as You Might Think

Think of what you did to get where you are in your career.  You spent years perfecting the basics of learning during your primary education.  Then you went to college, which today not only eats up 4-10 years in the prime of your physical life but can cost upwards of five hundred thousand dollars!  Then, you got your first position and started from the ground up learning the actual work that you trained and spent your parent’s or your own hard-earned money to obtain.  You got paid an entry-level salary, got yelled at by your boss for not doing everyone else’s job, and you were required to get on-the-job training.  In many professions, you must earn continuing education credits to stay current in your field.  Whew!

When it comes to relationships, we feel differently.  We believe that it should be like a bolt of lightning from the sky that hits you square between your eyes as you stare at the one true love of your life.  The world suddenly quiets, as all doubts topple like buildings in a tsunami.  Unfortunately, many stories, movies, and songs enhance the myth that love should be easy and instant.  In reality, personal relationships, like professional ability, must be cultivated, studied, and chosen with utmost care.  Often you will have to learn through trial and error.

You must study your own emotional needs and desires.  Who are you attracted to and why?  Then, ask if the people you are attracted to produce healthy or harmful relationships.  If you find that you are constantly getting involved with people who take advantage of you or do not give you what you want, explore why you keep picking damaging partners.  In many cases, your tendencies relate to your upbringing.  Whatever the reason, ferret it out, identify, and acknowledge it.  Then, try to recognize when you are making unwise decisions and change course before making a commitment.  Exploring your choices and why you make them will give you more say in where you end up in your personal relationships, just like getting an education will give you a say in your career choices.

You do not want to have to take any job that comes along because you have no training.  That’s when you wind up working in a dead end job just to pay rent and eat.  You cannot start a family or help others in your life because you need their assistance to survive.

The same is true of relationships you just fall into because you have no one else and you are lonely, one of the worst emotional states from which to select a mate.  Much like the dead-end job, the dead-end relationship puts you in a situation where a healthy, happy family is impossible.  Even if you and your partner can physically have children and have a wedding, that does not mean you will have a family in the fullest sense.  The family is predicated on your relationship as matriarch and patriarch of the household.  If the rotted roots lay hidden under the soil, eventually, the tree will topple when strong winds blow as they always eventually do.

Make sure that you train and study yourself so that when Mr. or Mrs. Fantastic comes along, you will recognize that they have the traits you need to create a strong foundation for a life of sustained growth both personally and together.

If you’re dealing with an issue like this, I would be happy to help.  Please reach out by calling my office at 310-314-6933 or sending me a confidential email at mfoxmft@yahoo.com.