In our search for healthy relationships, many of us seem to find a few not-sogreat ones along the way. This is simply how we learn about relationships: what we like, what we don’t like, etc. Each time a relationship ends, we try to learn something and make different, and better, choices the next time out.
But what happens if you continue to make relationship choices that don’t work out? If you find yourself saying something like, “Here we go again,” it may be time to take a closer look at what’s going on.
So how does someone get caught in a pattern of bad relationships? It has to do with the whole area of attraction. We seem to be attracted to a certain kind of person.
How do we go about picking out certain kinds?
It’s as if we each have an internal radar that picks out “our kind” of person. A person could be at a party with 100 potential relationship partners and find himself drawn to his kind of person in 10 minutes.
Your radar is shaped by at least three factors:
your self-esteem, the model of relationshipV in your childhood family and your own relationship experience.
You’ll notice that two of the three main factors are from the
past and are therefore, in a sense, unchangeable. You can’t change the model of relationships set by your parents or the relationships you’ve had in the past.
What you can do is change the choices that you make. This involves moving from a pattern that is perhaps out of your awareness to making conscious choices based on what is in your best interest.
The factor that is changeable is your self-esteem. One of the quickest and simplest methods for improving your self-esteem is simply to rate it. On a scale of one to 10, with one being the lowest and 10 being the highest, rate your selfesteem in four ways:
1) what it is now;
2) the worst it’s ever been;
3) the best it’s ever been; and
4) how you would like it to be.
The difference between numbers one and four is the ground you need to cover to improve your selfesteem.
I can’t tell you exactly what is right for you, but I can suggest some questions to ask yourself.
For instance, if now your selfesteem is a five and you want it to be a nine, ask yourself, “What do I need to do, think and feel differently to go from a five to a six, and then a six to a seven, and so on?”
As you are working on changing your internal radar, be careful that you don’t choose people who only look different – or even tell you they are different – and yet are the same on the inside.
There’s a story of a little girl walking through the woods to her grandmother’s house on a cold snowy day. (No, this is not Little Red Riding Hood.) As she’s walking through the woods, she comes across a rattlesnake lying on the path. She stops and the snake says,
“Please, if you’ll just put me in ~ your coat, and take me where you are going, I’ll just get out and get warm there. I promise I won’t bite you. If you don’t help me, I’ll freeze to death.”
The little girl, feeling sorry for the snake, agrees, stuffs the snake in her coat and continues on to grandmother’s house. She arrives and, sure enough, the snake bites her. The little girl exclaims,
“But I’ you said you wouldn’t bite me!”
As the snake slithers away, it says,
“You knew what I was when you picked me up. I’m a snake. That’s what I do.”
This person had a pattern of choosing “jerks.” So she created a list of “jerk signals,” or behaviors or attitudes that indicate that a person is to be avoided.
If a potential partner exhibited enough of these behaviors or attitudes, she knew this was a person to avoid. In this way, she was able to create a list of positive behaviors and attitudes that she could look for in a potential partner.
So let’s sum up the process of changing your relationship patterns:
o Improve your self-esteem.
o Watch out for “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
o Create a list of behaviors and attitudes to avoid in other people.
o Create a list of positive behaviors and attitudes to seek out.