This post is how to avoid frustrating situations in relationships in the first place. I want all my family and friends to have healthy relationships, because relationships do define who you are and will become.
Keep reading if you feel like you don’t attract the right kinds of people, or if the people you are attracted to, aren’t attracted to you back. Keep reading if you feel helpless to move things forward in your relationship. Keep reading if you’ve been in a series of “serious relationships” for a looong time. Keep reading if you suspect you have unhealthy dating relationships. Keep reading if you ever want to marry or improve your marriage.
Glad I kept your attention.
Seriously, read it.
First, let’s diagnose. See if you have experienced these unhealthy dating patterns:
1) You feel a strong attraction to someone and give up everything to pursue him instead of staying connected to the rest of your life.
2) When you like someone, you slowly avoid speaking your mind or asserting yourself. You adapt to whatever she wants.
3) You feel attracted to someone and instead of actively pursuing him, you lose your initiative. You are too shy, and you pull back instead of actively being yourself “toward” them.
4) You find someone you like, but if there is one slight feeling of rejection, such as if she has other plans or one date doesn’t go well, you disappear.
5) You start dating someone you like, but the more you go out with him and get close, the more you find little things “wrong” with him. You use those things as an excuse to blow him off.
6) You begin dating someone and give up too many boundaries too quickly.
7) You like someone a lot until he likes you, and then for some reason, he is not attractive anymore.
8) You fall for someone until she protests some things and then you see her as a nag, and you look for someone who is “easier.”
9) You go out a few times and worry that this looks too “serious,” so you move away. You feel too responsible for the other person. You feel as though it’s not okay to date without a commitment, so you keep your distance or bail out too soon.
10) You see many reasons why someone is not “right for you” until she moves away, then she looks wonderful.
11) You stay in a relationship that is not a relationship, but it’s comfortable for both of you. You know it’s not what you want, but it’s “something to do” instead of being alone. You’re stuck in a pseudo-friend-pseudo-dating relationship.
12) You are attracted to an “unattainable.” She may be unattainable because of age, location, social barriers, or some other reason, but you are only able to love what you can’t have.
13) You find one person you like and give up dating others, going from one to another, instead of dating a lot of people at once. So, over time, you date very few people. Your numbers are “low.”
14) When the person you are dating shows character flaws that should signal you to move on, you interpret those signals as something wrong with you. You try to please that person into loving you. For example, she is emotionally detached, or not responsive, and you try to please her to get her to love you.
The trick is to recognize these unhealthy patterns in relationships and stop them. This means establishing good boundaries.
Boundaries create autonomy, which create freedom. It’s the “hard to get” independent person, who is so alluring. People value those who respect themselves. Boundaries do a better job creating healthy space than games and manipulation. People without good boundaries attract someone who is controlling or abusive and become subtle controllers themselves, often in dependent and smothering ways.
To establish good boundaries, you need to practice good relationship skills and you need to own who you are.
Good relationship skills to practice:
-Gain awareness of what you like and don’t like, what you want and don’t want.
-Define who you are and who you are not.
-Develop your “no” muscle.
-Stop blaming others.
-Stop playing the victim.
-Persevere and develop self-discipline.
-Become proactive, not reactive.
-Choose and enforce your values.
-Accept others’ choices and don’t control them.
-Realize your separateness and independence from others.
-Be honest, clear, and direct.
-Challenge distorted thinking.
-Practice self-control with help from others.
If you feel you have good relationship skills, but are still attracting the wrong type of person, or are not the person you want to be, you may have a “split” perception of who you are, or trouble learning from past relationships to prevent problems in future relationships.
A split is not finding the balance between the extremes in your life. Consider how you are a person containing opposites:
- Your confidence and your insecurities
- Your victories and defeats
- Your independence and feelings of dependence
- Your “holiness” and your sin
- Your connected parts and your loneliness
- Your ability to dress up and look good and your casual side.
- Your sexuality and your values
- Your talents and your inabilities
- Your happiness and your struggles
- Your successes and your failures
- Your strengths and your weaknesses
If you attract overly confident people, you may be too insecure. If you attract submissive people, you may be controlling. To whatever extent you can’t balance the two extremes in yourself, you will attract someone to balance you out, and it may be the “wrong” person for you. Seek health. If you are a whole person, you’ll attract whole people.
When attracting the wrong type of person, if you feel you are honest and balanced in your identity, you may have these unhealthy patterns to deal with:
- Inability to judge: Use your head and your values, in addition to your heart. Get your head and heart on the same page: date a person for his or her character, not just because you feel attracted to him or her.
- Isolation and fear of abandonment: choosing dates from a lonely place inside draws you to people who can’t connect, or makes you so desperate that you’ll have anyone who will have you, no matter what they are like. Get connected with good friends outside of dating so you’re not dating from loneliness.
- Defensive hope: You may have been hurt or let down by a certain type of person in your life (often a parent), and you are still hoping to get that person to change, and to love you. So you are drawn to people like him or her so that you can finally heal that relationship. The sad thing is, these people are also drawn to you, because your dynamics work with their dysfunction, similar to the parent or significant other who taught you to play the game. Resolve your old business through forgiveness and grief, letting go of what you can never have from that kind of person who hurt you. Get what you need from good people in non-dating, healing relationships so that you don’t have to defend against the loss anymore.
- Unfaced badness: If you have not faced your “bad parts” and feel you have to be “all good,” you might be drawn to the “bad boy” or “bad girl” type to express those parts for you. Not facing your badness keeps you from owning it, with the resulting guilt and fear. Accept your bad parts, get forgiven, and be real.
For more unhealthy patterns, wait for part 2 (next post) or better yet, turn to page 184 in “How to Find a Date Worth Keeping” by Dr. Henry Cloud. I also hope to touch on things to consider once you desire to involve your heart or consider marriage in a dating relationship.