Attraction is a concept that has been studied extensively, but even so, most people don’t know exactly why they are attracted to someone aside from basic personality or physical traits.
In dating and relationships, you may look back and determine that you picked the “wrong” partner. Maybe you chose someone who looked good on paper, but was lacking relationship skills or was emotionally unavailable. You might have been blinded by his or her looks, status or financial stability and failed to see what was really going on. You may have enjoyed the challenge of pursuing someone who was not that into you.
Self-awareness tends to be the missing piece in attraction, partner selection, love, and relationships. Without understanding yourself and why you choose your partners, it is common to fall for the wrong men and women, repeat relationships patterns over and over again, and feel negatively about yourself in the end.
Explore the points below to gain insight into how and why you choose your partners — or feel compelled to get to know someone.
1. Are you protecting yourself from rejection, fear, loss or abandonment? Or are you looking for lasting love but also fear intimacy? Choosing unavailable partners may be the way in which you protect yourself and your ego from a number of unknowns, insecurities and fears. You might be drawn to someone who is unavailable because as much as you crave intimacy and a relationship, you may also feel scared and vulnerable when you think about commitment. A breakup with an emotionally unavailable person may feel less personal because you can justify the loss with, “he or she was never available in the first place” versus “this person does not like ME.” In your partner selection, you may be protecting yourself from loss, rejection or abandonment.
2. Are you looking to feel needed by someone else? For example, that clingy partner may be annoying at times, but it may feel good to be needed, admired and wanted. Someone clingy is likely to give you attention that feels temporarily satisfying if you feel lonely or lack other significant relationships. It may also feel safe to have someone depend on you because your mind can rationalize that someone who needs you is less likely to leave you. Unfortunately, these behavioral patterns can lead to co-dependent relationships, which do not equate to genuine happiness. For long-term relationship satisfaction, it is important to create a union that consists of togetherness and separateness while ensuring that you and your partner do not rely solely on each other to have needs met.
3. Do you go for anybody who pays attention to you? Many single individuals get caught up with attention or the idea that someone shows an interest. As you date, you may feel alone, desperate, tired or impatient and in turn, you may be eager to say yes to someone who is not truly a good match for you. My clients sometimes describe dating as waiting to be picked. I encourage them to change their perception. Sometimes dating may feel like waiting, however, it’s more about waiting to connect with someone in an intimate, loving way than waiting for someone else to choose you. The idea is that you get to choose them too.
4. Do you tend to make potential partners into projects or believe that they should and will change for you? It’s a bad sign if you go after someone with the intention of fixing them or expecting them to change for you. If you like someone “enough, “ but don’t accept him or her for who they are, you may become fixated on fixing or molding him or her into your ideal partner. Yes, individuals may change when they enter into a partnership, but going into dating with the mentality that you can tweak a person into your perfect partner is not healthy or fulfilling. The goal is to grow together and mutually support each other while resisting the need to change him or her to better suit your needs.
5. Are you repeating patterns by going after the same type of person, or acting the same way in all of your relationships? Without realizing it, you may be recreating old patterns from very early relationships. You may have the tendency, for example, to avoid conflict, neglect your needs for the sake of others or not want to rock the boat. Or maybe you repeatedly select partners with drug problems, narcissistic traits or explosive tempers and wonder why you are attracted to these types. While gaining awareness and exploring your past, you may discover that these patterns stem from early childhood experiences, family dynamics or poor role modeling by your parents. As difficult as it may be, the repetition of chaos may feel more comforting than breaking through the known to a new way of engaging in relationships. With support, insight, realization and what I like to call “a new lens,” you can heal past and current wounds, let go of these patterns and learn healthier ways of engaging with others.
6. Do you question your worth or feel undeserving of love and happiness? When you don’t feel deserving or worthy, you may attract someone who is not worthy of your heart and time. While questioning your self-worth, it is common to set yourself up for self-sabotage by picking someone who will ultimately let you down, reinforcing the story you have about yourself and your unworthiness. Examples may include attraction to partners who lie, cheat, take advantage or manipulate. Dating is not about filling a void of emptiness with anyone. It is about connecting with someone in a way that further enriches your life. Confidence is key in attracting quality partners who you deserve and are deserving of you.
My hope is that you can continue to learn from your past (while not bringing it into your present in negative ways), be aware of your choices and continue to check in with yourself. While understanding your past and being in the present, notice if you feel drained, unbalanced, unhappy and intentionally listen to these signs. I know it can be tricky, but I urge you to go after relationships that are rewarding vs. repeating the familiar ones that don’t bring you the happiness you deserve.
Rachel Dack is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and relationship coach, specializing in psychotherapy for individuals and couples via her private practice in Bethesda, Maryland. Rachel’s areas of expertise include relationships, self-esteem, dating, mindfulness, anxiety, depression and stress management. Follow her on Twitter for more daily wisdom!