Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in a relationship with someone who not only wasn’t a good fit, they were downright bad for you. Keep your hand up if you find yourself pursuing this same kind of person over and over again!
So often we find ourselves pursuing people who aren’t right for us, continuing a cycle that can sometimes last year or even a lifetime. A new relationship may feel right initially, but that charismatic charmer soon reveals themselves to be yet another emotionally unavailable partner.
We don’t even see it coming, and we keep doing it over and over. We reached out to our relationship expert Marwa Rakha to help us figure why we keep going for people who are bad for us.
Is it true that what shapes who we choose as a romantic partner is our relationships with our primary caretakers as kids?
Yes! This is entirely true. The first three years of our lives shape – almost all of – our personality. Moreover, the care, love, and attention we receive during these years define our self-esteem and self-worth as adults.
An infant who is left to cry until he/she stops, or who is denied his/her need for physical touch, hugs, kisses, and being held – that infant learns at such an early age that he/she is not worthy of love.
As for our primary caretakers, they act as a mirror in the infant’s or toddler’s life. A baby scans its mother’s face and internalizes that result. Frowns, lethargy, apathy, and boredom are all translated into disapproval of its existence.
As if this was not agonizing enough, this experience with the primary caregiver, in most times, the mother, sets the tone of that baby’s future relationships. It will grow into a person who chooses friends and partners that treat him/her, the same way he was treated as an infant.
It is as though, the emotions he/she felt in the very early years become his/her emotional comfort zone.
Children who are loved unconditionally, and whose needs are met consistently, grow up to choose partners and friends who treat them with the same kind of respect.
Are we unconsciously searching for somebody who has a conglomeration of negative and positive traits of the caretakers from our childhood?
If you observe people around you, you will realize that a girl who grew up in a house full of domestic violence, ends up in relationships where she is subjected to violence and abuse. Although she hated how her father abused her mother, she is still attracted to a man who is as disrespectful and abusive as her father.
A boy who has been denied secure attachment with his mother as an infant and child, grows up to chase after women who are either out of his league, or who simply reject him. Although, he was originally looking for the love he was denied, yet, he looks for it with women who will neglect his feelings the same way his mother did.
There is another side to that coin! The parents who set a high benchmark for future partners in their son’s or daughter’s life.
The sad truth is: there are so many broken homes out there and most likely a person with a healthy and happy childhood will end up in a relationship with someone with a miserable childhood.
Most of the time, the healthy happy person is trying to rescue that sad miserable partner – and in the process, he/she ends up being used and abused.
Is it true people are drawn to whatever they are familiar with, and they end up replicating the same patterns they experienced in their earliest relationships?
Other than childhood experiences, there is another factor at play when shaping our relationship patterns. Our earliest relationships decide how we choose our future partners.
For example, a teen girl falls in love with a handsome well-built jerk. She is trapped in the hot-cold rollercoaster. She is addicted to the thrill of chasing after him and the rush of adrenaline she gets when he pays her attention. After several months or a year, he leaves her, or she leaves him. Then she starts dating someone who treats her just as badly.
Because she has been made to believe that this is love and that this is the way relationships should be. If the relationship is not full of pain, anguish, wondering, and insecurity, then the man must be “just a friend”.
If yes, how to stop the cycle?
There are two parallel lines to walk when trying to end that cycle; first, awareness. Second, psychotherapy.
Being aware of the reasons behind the choices that cause us pain and misery is half of the way. To reach that level of awareness, a person needs to know and confront their infancy and childhood traumas, try to forgive their caregivers, and work on building new positive affirmations.