“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” – Gautama Buddha
Let me preface this post by saying I am not a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. I’m a human being. I wanted to share my own experience in the hopes that maybe it will strike a chord with even one person struggling with similar issues.
Here’s a little personal background on your Milady hostess here: I’m a strong, independent, 35-year-old who has never been married, engaged, or lived with a guy. I’ve typically always had a boyfriend, sometimes for 2 years, sometimes for a few months, and the longest was 9 years. Right now, you’re thinking: Woah, 9 years, never even lived with him??!! Haha, trust me, I’ve heard it all. Here’s what I can say to that: We had fun. We liked each other a lot. Did we love each other? Maybe, at some point I’m sure we did. But somewhere in our minds we knew it wasn’t right.
So, what does a newly single girl do to find a man after nearly a decade of never dating? Well, this girl went online. I found a guy right away who was very different than “9 Year Guy.” We had fun for a few months and even had some serious talks, but I realized he just wasn’t grown up enough for me. After this guy, I had lots of first dates, some second dates, and very few third or fourth dates. This went on for a few months, and I thought: OK, something needs to change here, and maybe it’s me.
I completely stopped online dating and focused on myself for a few months. I actually took a break from social media altogether. I googled, found, read and re-read so many psychology articles. My favorite search topic was “breaking bad relationship patterns.” It may seem naïve to think you can just google and read some articles and it can change your life. But I’m here to tell you, it really helped me start to reflect and set me on the right path to understanding the negative patterns I had worn myself into.
For me personally, I discovered that my issue was what Freud called a “repetition compulsion,” basically a neurotic defense mechanism. When you suffer from this, you are trying to subconsciously rewrite the history of a troubled relationship with your parents. I grew up with parents who weren’t very affectionate with me, with each other, with my siblings, or with their family or friends. For me it was abnormal to really display emotions or speak honestly and openly about such things. Now as an adult, I was drawn towards guys who were emotionally distant and would shy away from guys who wanted to shower me with love. But even though I was drawn towards these kinds of guys, I was never quite happy. Why would I choose guys who were rejecting, unavailable, or emotionally stunted?? Was I a masochist? Did I hate myself?? NO, I discovered. It was very powerful repetition compulsion at play. To read briefly about this topic, check out this article.
So, now that I had my a-ha moment, how on earth do I fix this broken part in myself? Well, here’s what I learned: it’s pretty damn hard to break this compulsive behavior. Basically, I just had to face it head on and really work hard to own and recognize my bad habits. This article really helped me, and gave me 5 steps (who doesn’t love some steps?!):
- Forgive yourself.
Forgive all the times you’ve entered into a relationship that wasn’t healthy, that caused you to feel hurt, unworthy, or unnoticed. Only after you forgive yourself can you take steps forward to weave a new pattern. Forgiveness will help you put the past where it belongs – in the past – so it stops tainting your future.
So close your eyes. Tell yourself you forgive. Feel it wash over you. Then take the next step forward.
- Understand where the pattern came from.
If it’s a pattern you’ve repeated multiple times you should be able to pinpoint some of the traits, characteristics, and symptoms. Think about them, write them down, analyze them. What exactly do all these relationships have in common?
Understanding where the pattern comes from and how it was created is key to finding ways to break it.
- Recognize the warning signs.
So what are some of the warning signs for your pattern? You have to look hard for these, as they can be disguised as really attractive things that lure you in like bait.
Identify the warning signs and you won’t get trapped so easily.
- Clarify how you really want to feel.
What kind of relationship are you really hoping for? Describe it. Flesh it out.
Most importantly, what does it feel like? Focus less on what the person looks like or what they do for a living. Focus instead on the feeling.
- Move forward.
Don’t be fearful of getting into new relationships. We learn something new with every one, which is the whole point of life anyway; to live and love, make mistakes, learn, and go forward.
So take the lessons you’ve learned and trust that you’ll take the right steps forward.
I spent several months journaling, thinking, reading, meditating, doing things I love that make me happy, and trying new things I may have been skeptical about. I started this blog, and even tried reiki, both very cool things! I’m here to say that true self-reflection can be one of the hardest parts of being alive in the human condition, but if you can do the work and power through, you just may come out the other side stronger and wiser. I continue to work on this every day. It’s a compulsion, not something easily broken. But now that I see it and can recognize it, it doesn’t own me like it used to. I own it!!