We have all probably had the dating experience where we are wildly drawn to some people and not so much to others. Why is this? Why do we find ourselves having this chemical pull and crazy chemistry? And after we spend some time with the crazy chemistry person - that we swear to have a long lost soulmate connection to - things fall apart. What happened to all the chemistry and connection?
After reading Harville Hendrix's book, Keeping the Love You Find, I came to realize that his ideas were the best explanation of this phenomenon. I kept getting involved with the same man over and over again, but he had a different face. What was the deal? Paraphrasing Hendrix's concept, we are attracted to those people who have the negative traits of our major caretakers in order to heal those wounds from childhood.
Let me explain this another way. Do your relationships and dates all have similar negative behavior? Do they have similar qualities but with a different face? If the answer is yes, there is hope to break this pattern.
My solution was different than Hendrix's. As I began working this process I discovered there are a pattern of unconscious choices we make, and bringing the choices into our conscious awareness is the goal.
First, on a piece of paper write down all the negative traits of your major caretakers while you were growing up. If your parents were absent or deceased put that down as well. I understand that being deceased is not a negative trait, however the fact is, they were not there for whatever reason. They were physically and emotionally unavailable. Even if your parents were physically present they may have been emotionally unavailable. Whatever the issues were, write it down. This exercise is not designed to put blame on your parents or caretakers, it is simply an observation for you to better understand the choices you make in your love life. For this purpose, we are not going to delve into a deep therapeutic process, we just want to gain information.
After you have written down this part of the exercise, on another piece of paper do the same thing with all the major relationships you have had in your life. Even if the relationship was only a week, or only one date, but had a tremendous impact on you, write it down. Write all the negative traits of that person. Understand when I say "negative" traits, it is those things that did not work for you. It might work for someone else, but it did not resonate for you. It triggered you or hurt you.
I dated a man who enjoyed going to bars, drinking too much and playing pool till all hours of the morning. This made him unavailable to me when he was on this kind of binge, just like my absent, alcoholic father. I was not willing to play "victim" to any further childhood issues. This did not work for me, it made me anxious and I considered his behavior to be a negative trait. However, this might not be a negative trait to a woman who enjoys drinking and playing pool all night. We all have our triggers and we are here to figure out yours.
This is not an exercise to find a partner that never triggers you or has a negative trait. Even in the best of relationships there will be conflict, disappointment, and hurt. What we are doing is breaking patterns of going after the same kind of partner that you have been choosing that is not working for you.
When both lists are complete, look at them side by side. Are there similarities? What is the common theme? Chances are there is something that all these significant relationships have in common. Sit and think about all these relationships for a moment. How did you feel when this negative behavior would come up in these relationships? Not so great.
I am certain that your list of ideal qualities for a life partner (see: Stop the Dysfunctional Dating Cycle) did not have these negative traits listed. Probably just the contrary. These negative traits probably trigger you into a place of great discomfort, but yet you are drawn to this kind of person over and over again. Therapy is a great way to get through this; however if you are as stubborn as I am, you will still keep unconsciously going after the same kind of partner over and over again. In spite of all the great work I have done on myself, which helped me tremendously, I needed to rely on another way of dealing with this that is not explained often enough.
Before I embark on explaining this, there is something you should know. This is my opinion, and this is what worked for me. This piece of the puzzle was HUGE for me.
When you begin to date someone be very aware of what you are chemically drawn to. You know the kind of strong attraction, instant bond chemistry I am talking about. Here is the key. The moment, and I don't mean five dates later, but the moment you see one of your deal breaking negative traits displayed by the person, RUN!! Do not walk, but run in the other direction. Why? If you stay, you will find yourself in yet another situation with that person who has the chemical za za zu, deep attraction and all the heartbreak that goes with it. This takes a huge amount of discipline especially for those of us who are more emotionally centered. This is extremely difficult because all of your other usual instincts will be saying, "hey, let's stick around and get to know each other" or "I should give this person a chance, it seems so cold to do it this way." Yeah, right! You will get to know each other right into feeling lousy again.
Do NOT make excuses to stay and continue to see this person. They might be a nice person, but just not your nice person, as my friend Victoria often says.