Thursday, January 30, 2014
An Ounce of Prevention: 'How To Stop Attracting The Wrong Men'
I remember when I first made the declaration "I like thugs." My mother's response? "Makes sense. Your daddy was a thug."
Now that I have a closer relationship with my dad, "thug" is a stretch but he and a lot of men I have fallen for do have similarities: a broken family dynamic, brilliant, bitter, charming, attractive, commitment issues, spiritually profound *and* unstable, extremely insightful, outspoken, fearless...and at the same time *extremely fearful*. Yes, there is a lot of truth in "You are what you attract."
Until you are willing to look at your patterns...and if need be, *break them*.
Although this article is long (I'm going to copy and paste it all), I discern that a lot of you can get *really free* from some of your own "attracting the wrong men patterns" if you're willing to read it all of the way through. It's a piece that features insight from different relationship experts. And while I'm not a fan of serial dating (at all), even when it comes to the first point, I see a whole lot of truth in.
Take heed. Oh and the paragraph that I made larger? That's on purpose. It's a real winner!
# The wonderful thing about dating is that we attract what we need to work on in ourselves.
Women get into bad relationships over and over because they don’t learn from their mistakes. The wonderful thing about dating is that we attract what we need to work on in ourselves. A woman who needs to learn to love herself is a magnet for men who for a variety of reasons are unable or unwilling to give. When a woman recognizes what the wrong man is highlighting for her – perhaps that she needs to take better care of herself, set better limits, be more assertive, or become better able to entertain herself – she can end the relationship and get to work on growing and developing in ways that will make her happier with herself and thus less susceptible to repeating her dating mistakes.
This kind of personal work is tough because it requires facing inadequacies, inner demons, and fears of being alone. But there’s a clear benefit to considering why you attracted the alcoholic, cheater, Momma’s boy, or commitment phobic and then acting to correct what you discover about yourself from that awareness. Women who stop to reflect on why they chose the wrong guy and accept responsibility for evolving from within to make better romantic choices in the future save themselves a lot of heartache. And the irony is that when you prioritize personal growth over rushing out and finding another guy to fill your time, you end up attracting Mr. Right more quickly — because you are self-sufficient, confident, level-headed, and discerning — precisely the sort of woman Mr. Right is looking for.
# Time to heal your Old Scars
It is Old Scars from childhood that draw us to the same kind of partner over and over. This is called the repetition compulsion. Here’s how this works. First, our unconscious makes us choose someone who emotionally resembles the parent who let us down or harmed us. I call this Setting the Stage. Because our partner is like our parent, in no time we are reliving the worst pains of our childhood. We do this, not because we’re gluttons for punishment, but because we’re hoping to achieve what I call our Happy Ending, which is a healing of the original wound. Sadly, the healing rarely occurs, precisely because our partners are limited and damaged in the exact ways that our parents were, making them unable to give us any more or any better than our parents did.
And here’s the tragedy, because we desperately need to heal, we don’t want to give that partner up–doing so would feel like giving up any hope of healing. If and when the relationship does end, we just find another player like the one before, so we can again re-stage the drama, fall into the same dance and, again, struggle for healing. The only way out of this painful and damaging cycle is to heal the Old Scar. Once it’s healed, you are freed from the clutches of this compulsion, and you will no longer find yourself drawn to the same type of destructive characters. Then and only then will you actually be free to choose a love who feeds your heart and soul. My book Till Death Do Us Part (Unless I Kill You First) shows you step-by-step how to identify and heal your Old Scar, and set yourself free.
# Making conscious choices means being aware of the whole picture, knowing what fits and what doesn’t, and having the courage to integrate the whole picture into your next step.
All of us, women, too, have an internalized definition of a loving relationship and what our role in that loving relationship will be. Often the relationship is determined by childhood experiences; our role defined by roles we have come to play or value most in a loving relationship. Choosing people who are bad for us usually indicates that there is some damage in our self-image. As a result, women choose mates who fit with a damaged sense of self-worth and wind up with men who cheat, are needy, or are abusive.
Of course, ‘bad guys’ often have damaged self-images themselves. This often plays a role in the attraction. “I will be the one person who gets through.” “I will be able to love him whole again.” This, however, is a misplaced sense of responsibility and an ill-advised source of self-esteem. Conscious awareness is the key to choosing a good man after a history of choosing ‘bad guys.’ This is often easiest to do through therapy, but it is not the only way. A woman who wants to change who she attracts into her life will need to do work understanding her concept of a loving relationship, her role in a relationship, and in what way her self-image plays into consistently choosing men who are ‘bad’ for her.
Making conscious choices means being aware of the whole picture, knowing what fits and what doesn’t, and having the courage to integrate the whole picture into your next step. Making change is a journey. It happens over time. Don’t expect to say “I want something different,” and have it just happen. Our brains are wonderful and complicated. They work on a stream of unconscious information that you send it every moment throughout the day. Becoming aware of — and changing that stream of information to reflect what you really want — takes time and energy. You can do it. You deserve it.
# To find a healthy partner, it’s vital to understand the three parts of attraction – Head, Heart and Hormones.
Head is the logical, analytical part that observes and collects information about people we meet. Heart is the emotional, i.e. feeling, connection that forms when people share, listen, understand and empathize with each other. Hormones are the body’s neuro-chemical reaction, the release of dopamine, which occurs when we feel attraction. This may feel like true love, but it is not.
When we meet someone new, Hormones usually lead the way. The rush of dopamine is so powerful that it overpowers the Head and leads us to idealize the person, overlooking or minimizing behaviors and qualities that we don’t want to see.
Therein lies the problem: With Hormones operating at full speed, the Heart feels love and the Head falls behind. We develop feelings of desire and love before we assess whether this person is a healthy match for us. It is the powerful chemically-induced feelings, we identify as “being in love.” Looking through rose colored glasses hinders us from making an objective assessment about whether or not this is someone with whom we truly want to become intimate.
The key to finding a good match is to be aware of the Head, Heart and Hormones trilogy and consciously choose to allow your Head to reign in the other two. Next time you meet someone new use your Head to write down what you observe and learn about this person after each date; collect the facts. Don’t jump to conclusions, but watch over time to see what patterns develop.
Does he listen deeply with empathy? Does he talk mostly about himself? If he shows up late, was he thoughtful enough to call you? Did he apologize? Is he caring and respectful? Only after you collect enough data will you be able to see a clear, realistic picture about who this person is.
The key to finding a healthy partner is to enjoy the Heart and Hormones, but always lead with your Head!
# Take a long, hard look at the common thread in all of your relationships
We are often drawn to the same dysfunction over and over again because it strikes an unconscious but familiar chord, reminiscent of the wounds we experienced in childhood. This psychological phenomena is called, “Repetition Compulsion.” As adults, we unknowingly re-create these scenarios to try to “win” them this time around. The problem is that this never works. Re-creating the same scenarios lends itself to the same sad, painful outcomes.
In order to truly “win” when it comes to dating, you must take a long, hard look at the common thread in all of your relationships, identify that “type” and truly accept that you will never experience peace and closure by romantically linking yourself to that familiar, comfortable but ultimately destructive person. Further, remind yourself that the only way to truly heal your heart is to mourn, process and ultimately accept your past and seek out someone that is whole and healthy on their own.
# Look at 3 important underlying explanations
Although there are many variables as to why women seem to fall into the trap of attracting the same kind of men over and over again, I believe that there are three important underlying explanations.
First, either consciously or subconsciously we tend to become attracted to partners who will meet a need or fill a void. From injuries or injustices that we experienced as children, we carry around psychological and emotional wounds. When we meet someone whose personality or character seems to give us the ‘missing piece’, we are drawn to him and we are unable to see his true or real character.
Secondly, we tend to be products of our environment and of what we have learned from the adults in our lives. If women are raised in an environment of disrespect, or of violence, or any type of abuse, this is what women often learn to accept for themselves and to expect from others. In short, women tend to be attracted to what they know, even if it is unhealthy.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, women who are attracted to unhealthy partners do not ask themselves two important questions. One – who or what gives me self-worth? Two – do I chose my worth or do I allow it to happen randomly? Women who rely on their ‘man’ to give them their worth and who do not develop a sense of strong worth independent of their man will set themselves up for heartache, harm, and an unhealthy relationship.
What should women do to overcome this problem? Many years ago, I interned in a Women’s Shelter. For the women who had transitioned into a two year semi-independent living program (with their children), the Shelter required that the women date themselves for a minimum of one year. In other words, no relationships! They were to spend the year working on themselves – learning and developing healthy interpersonal skills, rebuilding their self-esteem and worth based on newly discovered values and beliefs, and, giving themselves time to heal the wounds from their childhood. The women who committed to this process, almost without exception, did not repeat their past patterns. For those who ignored it, they left the Shelter and returned to their unhealthy relationships.
# Value yourself enough to take your life seriously
A number of women do notice that there is a pattern in the “types” of men they attract. This is not surprising from a psychological perspective. Freud called it ‘the repetition compulsion”. We have experiences in our early life which tend to be repeated throughout our lives unless we decide to do things differently. This takes concerted effort and awareness and usually we need some professional assistance to rewire the neural pathways in our brain and to learn to make changes.
This involves unpacking the stories we tell ourselves and the meaning we have made of our experiences. It involves being prepared to look at some of the (possibly unconscious) patterns of attachment and behavior that we have used as an adaptive mechanism which may have served us well in the past but which now serve only to act as a barrier to us getting the love we want.
So, my single most important advise to women in this category is to see a counselor or psychologist to develop awareness about their behavior in order to facilitate change. It may be the most rewarding thing you do for yourself. Value yourself enough to take your life seriously. Be proactive about getting help from an expert to move you past this pattern of attraction so that you can really attract the partner you deserve.
# Begin by investigating what the “hook” is for you about this type of person, and where this pattern originated
The psychological term for repeating negative patterns is known as “repetition compulsion.” The best way to shift away from repeating unwanted patterns of any kind is with awareness. To change the pattern of choosing the wrong partner, begin by investigating what the “hook” is for you about this type of person, and where this pattern originated. Who does this type of person remind you of? What task, issue or belief, about yourself or the world, is this repeating?
Your unconscious self is likely attempting to work something out on your behalf, to do it better, or get it right this time. But, until or unless you recognize the pattern, and its source, you will likely be stuck in the endless whirlpool, and whirlwind, of experiencing it again and again. As happened to the character in the famous film “Groundhog Day,” until you get clear on what the core issue is, you will be drawn there, and stuck there, again and again. How does this pattern make you feel, emotionally and physically?
It is important to get to the root of this pattern, in its source and how it is playing out in your life, from the perspective of memories, beliefs, emotions, physical sensations and spirit or energy. Tapping into your unconscious mind, with approaches such as hypnotherapy, EMDR or guided visualization or imagery, can help guide you to the root of the issue more fully and clearly, helping you to make better and healthier choices in the future.
# Know where you are at before you begin your conversation
Good women often ignore open signs of relationships incompatibility because of their own internal patterns. Women attract the same kind of partner do so because it feels familiar to them. When they realize they keep attracting emotionally unavailable men, bad boys, abusers, or over-spenders; it is then they are feeling alone, angry with themselves, while feeling heartbroken again. This is your low self-esteem relationship.
If you are busy and on the move kind of woman (who isn’t) you may not realize that you are in over your head with your relationship until there is a crisis. Some of the reasons women do not leave their low-self-esteem relationships are because they feel exhausted; they are not clear on where to go, or what to do next. They have spent so much time and energy being with their partners while being pre-occupied by their dilemma. The question may arise “how can I help them?” before, ”how can I help myself?” this usually means that they do not where their partner ends and they begin. Some good women do not have emotional boundaries to protect themselves from unfulfilling, dangerous, and sabotaging relationships.
Once you know where are your boundaries are you will no longer have to suffer with may feel like a bad karma relationship. When your relationship began did you notice a difference between your physical energy and his physical energy? Did you notice a difference with your emotional interest in him vs. his emotional interest in you? Did you notice how comfortable you are with him and did you notice how comfortable he is with you? If you are aware you will notice these relational differences early on, instead of feeling the relationship disconnect after a few months.
These differences can indicate whether you prefer to ENDURE difficulties in your relationships. The difficulties may indicate that you feel happier and more secure when he makes the first decision-even if you know that decision isn’t the best one. The difficulties may further indicate that his energy and interest may wane while yours stays the same. Lastly, he may act like a different person in public versus when he is alone with you.
At anytime you feel overwhelmed, disconnected, or have changes in your energy it is a good time to assess your relationship boundaries. It is important to have family and friends support to rely on in order to help you. This can help ground you so you do not get sucked into another relationship vortex.
# Awareness is the first step
Freud called this “repetition compulsion”. He conceptualized it as an unconscious force that drives people to repeat painful patterns. Human beings tend to seek situations that feel familiar, even if they are destructive.
Another unconscious and more optimistic reason to explain why women may choose men who are bad for them is because of women’s desire for healing. In replaying an earlier trauma, healing becomes possible and the cycle can be broken.
There are lots of other explanations for why women may choose ‘bad’ boys. These include: the excitement of risk taking, the draw of drama, fear of commitment, low self esteem, the sense that they don’t deserve to be treated better, and/or the challenge of the pursuit of men who are unavailable.
The first step to change this, regardless of the reason for the pattern, is awareness. Awareness in and of itself, though, tends not to be enough to change behavior. As a psychologist, my bias is that therapy is a wonderful resource to facilitate change. Different therapists have different approaches. Reference to the past with a focus on the present is a useful algorithm for the therapy template.
# Clear-out the clutter
Some women have a habit of dating the same type of guy. This can be problematic if the men you are attracted to negatively impact your life. You could have a habit of dating men who are emotionally unavailable, verbally or physically abusive, or just generally incapable of meeting your basic needs. If this sounds like you, then there are a few steps you can take to break your “bad guy” habit and clear out the clutter.
Step 1 – Take a break from dating… just for a little while
By taking a break from dating, you give yourself the opportunity to reset. This will give you time to process through the last relationship and lessen your chances of making the same mistakes.
Step 2 – Identify your pattern
You can now begin to reflect on your dating history and see if you can identify your patterns. You want to focus on identifying what each relationship had in common. Try to identify what needs were driving your relationship choices.
Step 3 – Address your needs in a different way
Now that you have identified your needs, you can find healthier ways to meet them. This could include strengthening your support system or starting a new hobby. The point is to take responsibility for meeting your own needs instead of placing them on the guy you’re dating.
By taking a break, identifying your pattern, and addressing your needs differently; you will be on your way to clearing out the clutter.
# Work on becoming a whole individual before attempting to be a part of a successful dyad
Most times women fall for the same type of men because they are oftentimes looking for someone to complete them. Many women are confused about what truly makes them happy as opposed to what they think normalizes their lives. In this day and age, depression in women due to the stressors that exist within our society is a major factor in the development of this disease and also throws a woman’s natural ability to gravitate towards someone who is right for her off.
During a depressive episode, women need to concentrate on getting better instead of looking for comfort. Being lonely and depressed is a toxic mix, which oftentimes causes people to pick what seems good right now as opposed to what could be right for right now and the future. Picking what’s right for right now can be attributed to the development of a “broken picker”; a term used in the addiction field but one I find to be most appropriate for this type of situation.
Becoming whole is a process whereby you work on your sense of self from the inside out. And you also get the opportunity to truly see who is a compatible mate for you based on your wants and desires minus the rose colored glasses.
GOOD STUFF. But as Matthew 13:18-23 reminds us, seed only grows when it penetrates.
Stay open. And not hard-headed. This article is a game-changer. If you let it be. #literally