“Love is the greatest miracle cure. Loving ourselves creates miracles in our lives.” ~ Louise Heu
When you are unlucky in love you tend to blame yourself for not being enough and perhaps blame fate for not giving you a break already! Everyone else around you is in happy, long-term relationships, but you just can’t get there.
You might decide that there’s something wrong with you – you’re too old or too fat – and all the good guys are already married, and you’re just going to die alone! You don’t think for a moment that your relationship history plays out a childhood dynamic.
This is how I felt for thirty-seven years of my life. It was like dating the same man over and over again but in different bodies. The way I felt was always the same. Always chasing after someone who somehow couldn’t be reached. Some had addictions, some were in relationships, some prioritized other people, but the underlying sentiment was the same. I’m not good enough to be loved.
Other times I avoided relationships entirely, or I was the one who ran away from those who wanted me and told me they weren’t what I wanted. In all situations it ended up the same way – I felt incredibly lonely and hopeless as a single person. I looked at anyone who could be in a relationship and wondered what was wrong with me.
I continued to search aimlessly for love in the wrong places, unaware of how my childhood was affecting my relationship decisions. Luckily, I began a healing journey that began with reading and listening to self-help content. I became aware of Pia Melody and the concept of love addiction after reading her book of the same name.
This relationship behavior, which I repeated over and over again, was actually a trauma reaction. I had grown up with a father who was emotionally unavailable and very focused on his own needs. Unconsciously I found him in these other relationships. After his suicide it got worse.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot about how our childhood trauma plays out in relationships. Here are seven ways it can happen:
1. You are in a relationship but don’t feel loved.
You are in the relationship you once wanted, but you still feel that emptiness and that your partner is to blame. If they did x, then you would feel loved and enough.
You blame them and they trigger you. But do you expect from them the love and care that you don’t even give to yourself? Do you fill up your own love so that their love is just a bonus? Do you even notice how they show you love? It may be different from your love language. Maybe things aren’t right, but are you working to fix the issues instead of blaming or ignoring them?
Our first relationships (with our parents or childhood caregivers) teach us about attachment. If your relationship with your parents was sometimes very loving but they were sometimes cold and distant, you didn’t grow up with available and enduring love. Because of this, relationships can make you feel anxious, and you can give too much and feel lonely in a relationship.
2. You are the fixer in love.
When you date or even get married, your partner tends to be the broken bird that you obsess about fixing. Or they could be a narcissist who only cares about their needs and you care about them. Either way, you’ve found yourself in toxic relationships that don’t feel safe or good.
You could be an addict and you put all your energies into trying to save her while feeling exhausted and unloved. You almost become obsessed with how to save that person you love so much. It’s entirely possible that you’re repeating a dynamic with one of your parents.
For example, I very often repeated a pattern of finding men to fix things because my relationship with my father was all about his needs and his struggles with his mental health. I always saved him and when I did, I received love from him. I thought that was love, so I subconsciously repeated that in other relationships.
3. You chase unattainable love.
You spend all your time and energy chasing after someone who is somehow unavailable. They need fixing, have addiction or family issues, are already in a relationship, or don’t want to commit to you. But you think about her day and night. You obsess over getting her to choose you, but they don’t and it drives you to despair.
They just keep trying and sometimes use other addictive substances to numb the pain. I was addicted to a psychic connection at the height of my love addiction with an unattainable man because I was looking for validation that we would end up together. This started my healing journey as I felt really insane at times especially when the object of my affection kept coming forward and then running away.
We often attract people who act out their attachment trauma from childhood with us. Often one that faces us. So if you are chasing love, you might attract someone who will run away.
4. You avoid relationships entirely.
Falling in love feels like too much and it just makes you so anxious that you may avoid relationships entirely and seem to function better single. But the loneliness is intense. You wish you could be held at night.
You will do things to avoid these feelings like overwork, take care of others, keep your social calendar super busy, get drugged by TV, drink all the time – whatever you can do to not feel your feelings!
If you even try to go on a dating app, your heart is racing and you’re scared. So you run back to your safe single life and you wonder what’s wrong with you that you can’t even go on a date.
5. They ignore the red flags.
The object of your affection does things that don’t feel safe, but you don’t say anything for fear of losing them. You have no idea how to set a boundary and ignore warning signs that this person might not be good for you — how they will talk to you, put you down, deny your reality, or even become physically violent.
Since you grew up with a parent who did the same thing to you, it almost feels normal. Even if your body tightens around them, you’re used to it. You stay too long in relationships that don’t make you feel good where you get very little. You feel like this is the best you can get, so instead of noticing the bad, focus on the good.
6. You feel suffocated in your relationship.
You’re in a relationship that feels safe and easy, but then your brain starts questioning everything. Am I attracted to this person? Do I feel suffocated by them? Are you right for me? You will convince yourself that they are wrong for you and end the relationship since you have no idea what healthy love even is. It makes you so afraid of ending up with the wrong person.
7. You don’t think you can get better.
You are in a relationship because you don’t want to be alone, but it doesn’t make you happy. But you think you don’t deserve anything better. The fear of leaving and being alone feels too much so you just stay. Getting angry at the other person for not making you happy but not doing anything to improve your situation.
Many of us fall into more than one of these categories.
Without healing and inner work, we unconsciously play out patterns from the past and prevent ourselves from having a fulfilling relationship.
We can’t even objectively see what’s wrong because so much of what we experience in our relationships is based on our past traumas. We don’t know what we don’t know, and if nobody modeled a healthy relationship for us as adolescents, how can we know what it is?
I had no idea my parents’ relationship was unhealthy because constant fighting was normal for me, so I had no idea I could have anything else.
Romantic love felt stressful to me for many years. I either craved them or they drove me insane. I didn’t know there could be another way.
But understanding my relationship patterns and where they came from was a turning point for me.
Now, after a journey of healing past relationship trauma with my parents through therapy, books, and support groups, I know how to have healthy love. What changed is that I learned to love and care for myself the way I wish others would love me.
That changed everything…
As my relationship with myself improved, so did my relationship with men. I am now married and thankful that my marriage has nothing to do with my parents’. When there is conflict, we have the tools to overcome it and emerge stronger.
We have a strong relationship in large part because I’ve done a lot of inner work and healing. Unlike previous relationships, I now know my own worth and also how to express my needs and limitations with love and kindness.
I finally took responsibility for my behavior and got out of victim mode. This changed the relationships I attracted, not just romantically. I now knew how to treat myself with love and respect, and that meant the quality of love I received was healthier as a result.
Our internal problems play out in our relationships. Once we heal from within, everything changes.
Prioritize loving yourself the way you would like someone else to love you. Notice when your relationship is triggering negative emotions and ask yourself, “What do I need?” Start giving yourself what you need, and then you will learn to ask others for what you need. Showering yourself with your own love will change everything.
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