Even though you swear your exes are totally different, experts say most women have a relationship pattern they keep going back to. See how to break yours for a love that won't leave you hurting.
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We were shocked when we heard that the first guy Rihanna seriously dated after Chris Brown had been accused of domestic abuse by an ex-girlfriend. After everything she went through, it would seem as if she'd be repulsed by men with that kind of reputation.
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Turns out, the opposite is more likely to be true. "Most of us have a relationship pattern - that same type of guy we keep falling for - and it can work for or against us," says couples therapist Deborah Dunn, author of Stupid About Men. "It's not uncommon for women to keep going back to the type that wronged them in the past." How do you change whom you're drawn to dating? It's not easy, but it starts with figuring out where your attraction to these guys came from in the first place.
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Experts say we develop our taste in men at a young age - anywhere from childhood to adolescence. "Whether it's positive or negative, everyone has a relationship pattern based on what they learned about love when they were growing up," says Alon Gratch, PhD, author of If Love Could Think.
Repeatedly choosing the wrong guys signals that you may be driven to re-create the drama you had with your father or first boyfriend. Many women who had an absentee dad or let the arrogant JV football captain string them along for years will go for men who are unavailable or talk down to them because they're subconsciously trying to resolve things with the guy who let them down earlier in life, says Dunn - even though, clearly, that's not solving anything.
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Women in these toxic patterns get hooked on the ups and downs of their relationships and can form what experts call betrayal bonds, which cause them to feel even more attached to men who show them these extreme - and sometimes ultimately dangerous - forms of attention. "You eventually feel like a guy doesn't love you unless he's either yelling in your face or trying to win you back," Dunn says.
Break the Cycle
All guys have less-than-admirable moments, but there are major tip-offs that your type is bad for you. Consistently feeling worse about yourself as you become more involved with a boyfriend is a giveaway that something isn't right, says Diana Kirschner, PhD, author of Love in 90 Days. Other red flags: feeling like you have to walk on eggshells around a guy and dropping everything to spend time with him even though he's proven he wouldn't do the same for you. And while only you know what your relationships are really like, pay attention if your friends and family disapprove of every man you date, says Gratch.
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To alter whom you're attracted to, you need to believe that what you've experienced isn't how love has to or should be, says Dunn. Ask friends who are happy in their relationships to describe how their guy behaves toward them so you can hear what you're missing out on. Or if you're coming off yet another bad breakup, consider seeing a therapist to make peace with the guy who originally wronged you, recommends Kirschner. For extra motivation, picture what your life could be like in 10 years if you're still choosing men who treat you badly versus men who will care for you in a positive way. Which future do you want?
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