Change Your Relationship Pattern and Find Love
Everyone has faults. Relationships only work if your partner’s faults are ones you can tolerate. Leaving the cap off the toothpaste tube is a fault. Lying to me is a fault. When I put out my hands as if I were weighing how badly each one would harm me, well, lying to me wins hands down. I cannot tolerate lying.
In this way, you have to decide if the person you think of as a potential mate has faults that you can live with. Because live with their faults you absolutely will.
- Changing your relationship pattern requires self-honesty and effort.
I ask people to describe their destructive relationships, and it seems like the freedom to trash those who harmed you. While very necessary, you cannot stop there. That is only the initial step in moving toward the relationships you seek. For you to succeed, you will have to move forward toward seeing how you personally make your choices. After that, you will need to move outside your comfort circle and try new behaviors.
- Your relationship pattern was built by all the relationships you have ever experienced.
Your primary caretakers, teachers, and lovers. This includes both positive and negative relationships. You learned ‘normal’ from how they related to you. And until you sort this out, the relationships in your history determine your future.
- Your relationship pattern was shaped by an imprint of how your primary relationships behaved.
Whether your parents fought constantly, were brutal, or lovey-dovey created an image of the ideal relationship in your head. Unconsciously, you measure each potential partner by this image.
If your primary relationships were painful, abusive or destructive, you have a mental map for a painful, abusive or destructive relationship. Those are some pretty heavy duty influences. And they require considerable effort to change.
You can draw a new map for yourself. Here is how. I created a chart you can use to guide you here: Change Your Relationship Pattern Chart
Action 1: List all painful or problematic relationships in your history.
This includes sexual and love relationships as well as family relationships. Contrary to popular psychology and my own expectations, I discovered that I kept dating, having sex with and marrying men who were like my mother.
Action 2: Describe the situation and detail what happened with them.
This is a little more difficult than it sounds on the surface. Most people describe how they felt during a situation. That won’t get you your freedom. You need objective details. Like the very ancient television show, “Just the facts!”
What people said, what they actually did, how they stood, sat, their facial expressions and so on. You can even use a list of your senses as a guide: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. For example, “seeing money missing in the check register”, “telling me I’m crazy,” “smelling of other sex partners,” “tasting the drugs in his mouth,” and “physically abusing me.”
Action 3: What did they offer you?
This one is key for destructive and painful relationships. Each painful relationship begins with an offer of some kind. It’s usually something you deeply want. Your fantasy of how things should be. Most destructive and or abusive relationships begin with the offer of your secret dream.
And the offer is a lie. Sadly, it really is just a lie. The old adage is really true: “If it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.” If you learn what motivated you to enter a harmful relationship, you can grow and change that too. Let’s see, Mom always offered me her unqualified love and support right before she trashed me. My grand obsession said on the first date, “I love you as much as I’m capable of loving anyone.” My ex, nameless, offered me the illusion of social acceptability.
Action 4: Describe them as you know them now after the relationship ended badly.
Don’t include the impressions you had of them when you first met. This too needs to be factual, rather than feelings. Descriptive, not how you feel. My list included people who actually hated the opposite sex. They were power hungry, lied, stole my money, cheated on me with other women, and made attempts to remain top dog, center stage or the star of the room no matter the cost to me.
Action 5: Get specific about when you first noticed their character and personality flaws.
This becomes obvious the more you delve into it. Everyone. I mean everyone I ever walked through this process saw the truth about their potential partner very early in the relationship. With my grand obsession and nameless, it was on the very first date!
Action 6: How you ignored your own insight.
This is very important. These are responses that everyone who has destructive relationship patterns makes. They are only semiconscious reactions and not deliberate. This is why it’s critical to become aware of yourself. When someone behaves in a way that does not suit you, what many people do is mentally shake themselves. Then, in some way, they write themselves off. They invalidate themselves. I ignored it when my grand obsession added the following to his ‘I love you’ statement: “I’m not capable of a relationship.”
When I looked back over my history of failed relationships I saw that I somehow ignored my own instincts. Some people think they are bitchy, judgmental, and mean spirited if they allow themselves to become aware of the truths they see in the world. Other people think they have to be nice and overlook people’s faults. You don’t have to be mean and tell people what you just saw. Just let yourself know that this person is not for you.
Action 7: Build your new defenses.
This involves skills such as saying “no” when someone asks you for a date, conversation, or your time when you really want to say “no.” I made an actual written list for myself of statements I could use when people asked me for things, activities, and situations that were not right for me. I could write a list here, but this needs to be YOUR list of statements and actions that protect you.
Action 8: Spend time spotting and identifying people who are not suitable for you.
I used to go to parties and dances and practice looking around the room. Then I’d say to myself in the privacy of my own mind as I spotted men who were unsuitable for me: “There’s one.” Each and every one was someone I would have, in the past gravitated toward. Eventually hooked up with and made new misery for myself. This way I became skilled at identifying my pattern without any new grief cost.
Action 9: Spend time getting to know the other people in the room.
At first, this was ‘roll my eyes boring’. I had to give up the drama and danger associated with men who would harm me. Then I had to get to know who else was left. I spent time meeting many men and enjoying their company. Talking to them, listening to them, getting to know and understand them. Eventually liking them.
Action 10: Make a list of what you now know you want in a partner.
Don’t do this first. If you go through all the above actions, you will understand yourself well enough to make an accurate list. Then you can look for those folks with enough of the characteristics that actually suit you.
It took me a
bout a year and a half to work through those actions. Shortly after I did all of these, I met the man I married. The first great love of my life. We were together for 27 years until he died. Several years later I met my current husband, the second great love of my life.
You can do this for yourself. You can change your pattern.
It’s a simple and straightforward process. Yet, this takes hard work. It’s simple, not easy.
I believe, however, that it is easier to face myself than to keep getting into the same problems over and over again. I believe that working on myself or empowering yourself is worth the effort. I believe that you and you and you are worth the effort.
If you’d like more information or want to make an appointment:
Telephone: (615) 464-3791
©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
Painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons