Q. Why is it that I cannot read “the writing on the wall” and get out of this relationship? It makes no sense. I continue to chose the same kind of man. Why do I do this?
A. There actually is a reason you stay; there are probably many but the one that usually hooks us is the following: We continue to be attracted to people that trigger our unresolved childhood issues. For example: Katie came to counseling to talk about her controlling, non-nurturing mother. She described how her mother never praised her, encouraged her or offered any physical affection. Katie always wanted (and NEEDED) her mother’s love and fought hard to get it.
She described how, occasionally her mother would show an interest in her causing her to feel, “my mom does love me,” then push her away, once again feeling rejected. Katie lived her entire childhood with this mother-daughter dynamic.
When Katie began dating, what kind of men do you think she was attracted to…….if you said, “emotionally unavailable, loving then not so loving, controlling” you would be right. Katie did not have the emotional ability to choose an emotionally connected and loving man.
Katie’s father traveled most of her life and her relationship with him was loving but not in a very demonstrative way. He also played a very passive role to her controlling mother. So Katie was playing more of her dad’s personality in her relationships.
The “writing was on the wall” usually at the beginning of her relationships. She always found herself “fighting to be loved.” So it makes sense that when we continue choosing the same type of people to have relationships with……the results will always be the same.
Katie described the day she had what she called “an epiphany” and she realized the connection between her mother and the men she chose. She was able to gain more insight and learn that she was not stupid but under the spell of her childhood experiences that she played out in adulthood. We either play them out or go to the extreme opposite…..both being dysfunctional.
It is more difficult than it sounds to “let someone love us” when we don’t know how. But we can learn. We can find courage to let it happen. Until then, stop having those dysfunctional relationships until “your picker” is healthier.
Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City
If you would like to send a question to Vicki, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org