Have you ever looked at some of your past relationships and wondered, “What the &*$# was I thinking?”
At some point or another we’ve probably all stumbled off the dating merry-go-round, dizzy and nauseous, with that question spinning between our ears.
Sure, some of those bad relationships could be chalked up to being young, inexperienced and not knowing ourselves well enough. Many of us get focused on our own issues and unconsciously seek someone who might fix us. And sometimes we’re just attracted to the prettiest horse on the merry-go-round, not realizing until too late that the luster quickly fades to reveal what lies beneath.
In most cases, however, the main ingredient that keeps drawing us to the “wrong one” is that we attract into our lives someone who reflects back to us exactly where we are within ourselves.
If our unconscious nature is to treat ourselves poorly through negative self-talk and behaviors, we may draw in someone who mirrors that back to us. We may attract a lover who treats us exactly as we believe we are, deep below our conscious mind’s awareness. This is the voice that loves to consistently tell us how fat, unattractive, old, too short, unworthy we are—or whatever other poisonous beliefs we inflict on ourselves.
Just like that voice in our head, this partner will have us believe we are less than we are and that they’re always right. They will have us thinking that all the relationship problems could be worked out if only we handled it. If they are more covert in their approach, their actions may show up as manipulation. In any case, there is little, if any, personal responsibility from this partner.
In extreme situations, this partner will be outright verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually abusive. This partner not only reflects back all of our insecurities but also magnifies them hundredfold.
Or perhaps we’ll attract a lover who is amazingly loving, supportive and appreciative from the get-go. Our “knight in shining armor.” Or “the nice girl.” Sounds good, right? But be wary! It’s not all wine and roses!
At first glance it may seem that we are self-loving if we find ourselves in a relationship with the “nice one.” However, we must ask ourselves why we’ve attracted this person into our lives. Is it because they’re reflecting our self-love back to us? Probably not! It’s often because we like being appreciated and accepted, as it validates who we are. But if we don’t appreciate and accept ourselves, the love from someone else only acts as an ointment that temporarily soothes and keeps covered our personal insecurities and feelings of not-enough-ness.
The first time I fell in love, I played the “nice guy” role to the hilt.
I wanted to do my best, so I did everything—I invited her and her two dogs to move in with me while I paid the rent, drove her to work and supported us. I did all I could for her, because I had a serious case of “knight in shining armor syndrome.”
You see, that is what I thought love was: giving and supporting. But I didn’t realize she and I were caught in a dependency loop. I wanted to make her feel good because deep down, way below my conscious awareness, that made me feel good about myself. A good percentage of my own relationship self-worth was based on my making her happy.
So in my efforts to be accepted and loved, I gave my all until I was empty. In doing so, I sacrificed myself and my own self-respect. And eventually, I became resentful for giving too much.
It was a reciprocal relationship for both of us. You see, she loved the attention and appreciation, but because of her own diminished experience of self-love, she was unable to receive it, and that ultimately became resistance. I could give all I had—and I did—and I would still never be able to fill her need for self-love, just as she could never fulfill mine. We played out a subtle and mostly unconscious energetic exchange that ultimately sapped us both and destroyed the relationship.
It can be easy to go to one of two places during or after a challenging relationship. We can resort to feeling like our partner is the cause of all the problems, or we may go to a victim state of “I’ll never get it right” and beat ourselves up with persistent thoughts like, “I’m a bad person.” If we’re consciously evolving, we’ll probably vacillate between the two. The first keeps us in judgment; the second maintains our victim story.
Both keep us stuck.
To get unstuck, we must take full responsibility for ourselves and how our challenging behaviors have affected us, our partner and our relationship as a whole. But the key is to do this without guilt or shame. Harboring continual feelings of guilt and shame will only make us feel like we are walking through four feet of honey on a cold day in January as we try to move on.
So how do we avoid these situations? There’s actually a simple solution.
When we learn to love, accept and appreciate ourselves, we will stop attracting partners who magnify the reflection of our insecurities. When we get ourselves in alignment with ourselves, space will open up for the right one to appear in our lives. The right one will meet us where we are within ourselves and complement us more easily.
Yes, our partner will always reflect who we are—both easy and difficult. But when we see those challenging behaviors through our own lens of self-love, self-acceptance and self-appreciation, they won’t appear so utterly blinding. And this allows us to grow through these behaviors more easily and without the guilt and shame that have kept us from seeing them in the past.
Author: Tim Hastings
Editor: Catherine Monkman