“The past does not cause the problem in the present. Recreating the problem in the present that might have been shaped in the past creates the problem.”
I once counseled a family in which the parents constantly pushed their daughter to break up with the guys she would date. According to them, when it came to the men their daughter would fall in love with, it was always the same story: “He would move in too quickly, never pay any bills, use her, verbally abuse her, and never find a job.” Every time she would break up with a guy, her family would be relieved . . . until the next one came along. Her family members were convinced that the guy was the problem. Once their daughter could eliminate these “losers” from the equation, she could finally be happy. I, as the therapist, could see that there was more to this.
Always Dating The Same Person
Can you relate to my clients’ daughter? Do you find yourself repeating a similar pattern? Do you tend to date the same type of person over and over again without intending to? Do you find yourself getting in the same fights or dealing with the same relationship issues so much that you feel you’re having déjà vu?
It may be hard to grasp and accept, but when you find yourself continuously dating the same person, there is one common denominator, and that is you. As uncomfortable as it may be, it’s time to look in the mirror and see what anxieties are reflected back at you. They may be hard to face, but they offer important information about what you’re doing to create and repeat these patterns in your relationships.
What the family I worked with came to understand is that when it came to their daughter, if it wasn’t one loser it would be another loser. In other words, it was pointless to focus their attention and energy on helping her get rid of her current biggest loser. Until their daughter worked on herself and her unresolved issues, she was never going to be with a “nice” guy and find the happiness she wanted.
Date At Your Same Emotional Level
If you’re still reading this, it probably means you’re ready to stop this cycle. Theories explain that which we all have a hard time swallowing: We date at our same level of emotional maturity. Therefore, the relationships you enter are an echo of your own level of maturity and development.
Hold up…What? Let’s take a step back. There’s no way those losers were at the same emotional level as I am!
Trust me, I have had a strong opposition to that idea before, too. Especially, when I dated a guy who thought it was cool to smoke all day and play video games while I spent time in the library doing something of a more studious and responsible nature.
I always seemed so much more mature than the guys I dated—and in some aspects of my life, this was true. However, emotional maturity takes different forms and is usually the driving force that motivates us to choose the dating partners that we do. Emotional maturity is a way of separating thinking from feeling, making us less reactive to our emotions when we’re in relationship with others. Being more emotionally mature means making choices that stem from values and principles rather than anxiety. More simply put, emotional immaturity can be explained as lacking a sense of self.
But Why Do I Choose The Same Person To Date?
Repeatedly dating the same type of person is an indication that you are functioning at an emotional rather than logical manner. To make a long story short, this is the result of unresolved emotional attachment that spans multiple generations. When I started viewing my own patterns from this perspective, it made sense to me that maybe I was on the same emotional level as my boyfriends. I was seeking relationships to get attention, approval, and love that I wasn’t giving myself because I hadn’t received it growing up.
I grew up in a very critical environment, which led me to be vulnerable and eager to please others. I would adjust who I was in order to keep my family in harmony and avoid their criticism. As I grew older, my need for emotional closeness and approval grew, pushing me into the arms of someone with the same type of emotional functioning. By choosing relationships through my anxiety, I was creating the very things I didn’t want in my relationships. I always found myself with critical men.
So How Do I Break This Pattern?
Allow me to explain. In order to start choosing different, more satisfying types of relationships, you must first develop a stronger sense of self that does not allow you to make anxious investments in other people. This means not abandoning yourself to please others, becoming who they want you to be. So, essentially, the process isn’t really about changing yourself but about knowing who you are and not allowing yourself to vanish in your relationships.
The responsibility is yours to communicate your needs and choose someone who honors, cherishes, and loves you the same way you honor yourself. If you don’t learn to love, honor, and cherish yourself, you’ll settle, and your needs won’t get met.
This is part of becoming more self-full and authentic. It means communicating your needs, having higher standards for the people you date, and stepping into your own self-love and self-care. From that place, you can begin to choose the people you want to form relationships with.
Ask yourself this question: “If I really knew myself, would I still be dating these losers?”
People who are self-full have the healthiest, most satisfying relationships. They have strong boundaries and a clear idea of who they are. The work you will do on building your self will eventually bring you what you want in relationships.
Article edited by Dr. Denise Fournier