If you want to have a healthy, loving relationship, but continually feel disappointed or dissatisfied with the quality of your intimate partnerships, please do not despair. There are many ways we all sabotage our relationships, and I’d like to shed some light on ways you may be doing so.
Before you read the list, keep in mind that there is so much you can do to grow out of limiting behaviors, change your experience of intimacy, and feel satisfied, grateful, and fulfilled in your intimate life. The patterns listed below are nothing but that. Patterns. And they can be dismantled, shifted, and re-wired with your participation and the skill of a good therapist.
And now, the 7 Reasons You Don’t Have the Relationship You Want Yet
- You may have unfinished business with family members.
Every adult must come to terms with the circumstances of her upbringing, and honestly look at how her family dynamics affect the way she relates in intimate relationship. For example, if Mom was emotionally unavailable and you never explored the effect that had on you, you may become overly dependent and push intimate partners away. The opposite is true too. Or maybe you learned that neediness and showing emotions was unwelcome in your family, you learned to show down your true feelings and not need anyone. This overly- independent stance may be repelling potential partners.
- You do not take responsibility for the full spectrum of human emotions.
If you own up to only comfortable emotions, but ignore other more challenging ones, whatever you don’t acknowledge in yourself will show up with your partner. For example, if you are comfortable seeing yourself as peaceful and harmonious, but do not acknowledge your own anger or aggression, you could be intensely bothered when your partner displays appropriate anger, and deem him an unsuitable partner. The problem in this scenario is that you are not simply rejecting your partner, you are rejecting a part of yourself, and may unconsciously do this again and again. In this instance you may have contracted a partner to make you whole rather than feeling/ being complete within yourself. You must accept the light and the dark of who you are, otherwise your relationships will be unbalanced and volatile. If you work to own all of you emotions, and it is indeed work, you will cease to be attracted to partners who are doing the same thing you are, seeking wholeness outside themselves.
- You don’t know how to have a conflict and arrive at a resolution.
So many of us did not have good modeling on how to disagree, express anger, disappointment, hurt, go through the process of acknowledging and communicating these feelings and thoughts, and working cooperatively to get to a constructive understanding or compromise on the other side. Many of us learned that anger wasn’t safe, and to “stuff it” and ignore it was the only safe way to survive in close relationships. Others are comfortable with anger, but don’t yet know how to fight fairly. Have you ever found yourself, after your partner forgot to bring home the groceries as promised, unleashing a laundry list of grievances that go back months or years in the past? This behavior will not address the current needs of the situation, and is likely to increase dissatisfaction in the future.
- You communicate in ways you are not aware of.
Have you ever said you were fine, but no sir, you were certainly not fine? Being unable to clearly express your experience to your partner affects the relationship and can be a barrier to closeness. We communicate in more ways than just verbally. Your implicits, your body language, the energy to exude speaks volumes to your partner. You may be surprised by what you’re actually communicating in subtle ways.
- You haven’t yet learned how to identify your needs and ask for them to be met by those who love you.Needs are tricky thing to identify, as they are changing and paradoxical. It takes practice and maturity to know and name ones needs in real time and communicate them without demanding, blaming, shaming or putting unfair pressure on our partner.Have you ever been sexual with your partner, when what you needed was emotional closeness or nurturing touch or cuddling, and felt empty afterward? Or have you ever gone along with a financial decision that made sense for your partner, but left you strapped for cash and worried you are not saving enough for yourself each month, and didn’t realize the effects of the decision until after it has been made? Both situations require you to identify and communicate your needs in order to feel at peace within the relationship. This takes practice, skillfulness and bravery. The support of a good therapist can help you, little by little to be more comfortable with this.
- You have active addictions or are choosing partners with active addictions. By this, I do not only mean drugs or alcohol, although those are obviously important to consider. Addictions can also include spending money, exercising, eating, watching pornography, behaving seductively, numbing out, shutting down- anything that you or your partner uses to keep from showing up fully and facing the challenges and discomforts that inevitably arise in relationships and life in general.
- You jump into new relationships quickly, without taking time to grieve or process the ending of your last relationship.Choosing a partner out of neediness, resisting being alone, or as a way to avoid the pain of a break-up means you are using that person as an escape or fantasy. You are likely to wake up in a few months and realize that the new relationship is not working either, and begin the cycle again.Grieving is a complex process and while there are well-known stages of grief, everyone does grieve differently. Sometimes we think we are over someone until we see them with someone new, sometimes we get into a new relationship and behave toward our new partner as if there are the other partner who wronged us. It’s important to get clear about your readiness for relationship. It requires a sophisticated practice of non-grasping and finding wholeness in yourself rather than looking to a partner to fill empty spaces in you.
So there you have it. If any of the patterns on this list sounded familiar to you, please see that as an opportunity for growth. You have the power to shift every single one of these behaviors with a little patience, gentleness, bravery and support. I’m honored to assist men and women in this process every day, and have watched heartbroken, lonely, or just dissatisfied people find, create and keep loving relationships that bring joy, nourishment and richness to their lives.