by Nancy Travers,LCSW
“I always fall for the wrong type of person.” This is a mantra that many people repeat to themselves at the end of a relationship. Often, people will continue to follow the same relationship patterns throughout their life and make the same mistakes in each of them. However, breaking these negative trends is the best way to achieve a healthy relationship and satisfaction with your partner.
Consider your last failed relationship. Perhaps you were entangled with someone who was emotionally unavailable. During the course of the relationship you felt lonely and ignored. When the relationship ended, what did you do? The response is all too often to fall for another emotionally unavailable partner; during this next relationship, your feelings of loneliness will only be strengthened by your past experiences. Does this sound familiar? Can you substitute “emotionally unavailable” for “controlling” or “abusive”? This is one type of relationship pattern that can be stunting your emotional growth and harming feelings of self-worth. Other common negative relationship patterns include poor communication about feelings, treating others poorly, being treated poorly by partners, compromising too little, or sacrificing too much.
Recognizing these negative patterns in your own relationship history can sometimes be difficult; however, self awareness is the first step toward breaking these trends and achieving a happy, healthy relationship. If you are hoping to escape your negative relationship patterns, you must keep one simple statement in mind. There is only one common factor in each of your relationships, and only one thing that you can truly change: yourself.
Begin by thinking of what your friends say about you. Do your friends often tell you that you are controlling? Do they remind you that you don’t take enough time for yourself? The observations of people that you know and trust is a great way to evaluate your behavior, and can help you find the root of your problems. Remember these observations and consider how you feel about yourself. What do you think is your greatest struggle in relationships? Is it similar to your friends’ opinion of you? Finally, consider your relationships. What went wrong? Were there warning signs in each of your partners that you ignored? Was there an action that you repeated in each of the relationships? What triggered your behavior?
After you have finished your self-reflection, determine what you can do to change. Does sacrificing too much make you feel stressed and unhappy? Practice saying “no”! Next time someone asks you to commit to an activity that you are not interested in, tell them that you don’t have time. Instead of giving time, energy, or money to a cause that you don’t care about, treat yourself to a relaxing day out. Do you have trouble telling others about your feelings or needs? Practice emotional conversations with a friend you trust. If talking with a friend makes you uncomfortable, you can enlist a counselor to help you work through any problems, and form good communication habits. Start with small changes, and work towards conquering your interpersonal problems. You will find that as you learn how to better yourself, you will be happier in your daily life. This happiness and positive energy will only help you attract a partner who can meet your needs and make you happy.
Even when you are content with the changes that you have made in yourself, you should be careful when entering a new relationship. Before you begin a new romance, consider what characteristics you need in a partner to help your continuing emotional growth. Do you need a partner who is strong enough to force compromise, even when you feel unwilling to budge? Do you need someone who recognizes when you need to talk about your feelings and encourages you to do so? Finding a partner who compliments your needs will allow you to break your negative relationship patterns.
Of course, it is just as important to know which characteristics to avoid in a partner. You may have noticed a number of similarities in your last romantic partners. Not all of their shared characteristics will be negative, but you should take note of any personality traits that did not work well with yours or any “red flags” that you overlooked during the course of your relationship. Remember these as you meet new prospective partners. Keep in mind that you need to change your habits if you want to achieve a happy relationship.
If you find yourself struggling to break a negative relationship cycle and feel that you may need expert help, a counselor will be able to help you work through these problems. Recognizing the need for help is an important step, and a counselor may be able to help you pinpoint your relationship weakness, work with you to cope with the root of the problem, and aid you as you become more comfortable with yourself, your strengths, and your new relationship pattern.
Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 1600 Dove Street, Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 orÂ contact us.
copyright a division of Counseling Corner, Inc.
As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.