Congratulations! You have jumped back into the dating pool. Doing so takes guts and vision and a joyful, optimistic heart. In fact, your optimistic confidence that you will find Mr. or Ms. Right is totally justified. But maybe you are losing that optimistic outlook because you notice a recurring theme—as you attempt to enter serious relationships, you find that they all seem to go down the same rabbit hole.
For instance, do you seem to be attracted to emotionally needy people who demand so much of your attention that you lose sight of yourself? Or do you repeatedly become involved with emotionally unavailable people who shut you out no matter what you do? These and other repeated scenarios inevitably result in your unhappiness and eventually a break up. You wonder, “Why does this keep happening?” It’s always the same game, just a different player.
The answer: you’re attracting the wrong type of person through a familiar habit. That habit was likely formed because it confirmed something you believe about yourself. Maybe you are a rescuer. You think you can save someone, or help him or her in some way. Your nurturing personality fits perfectly with the lost puppy syndrome. If every person you are drawn to becomes a project—a habit is formed. You become the “only one who can save him or her.”
Or, if you keep finding yourself linked to someone who is emotionally distant, and you feel inadequate as a result, how do you behave? You no doubt do anything in your power to get that person to respond to you, to care for you—or show the caring you know is there deep down. Here, too, your needs are not being met. But your belief in yourself as unlovable or undeserving may be confirmed in such a relationship, without your even knowing that is what’s happening.
First of all, realize that it is not okay for your needs and desires to be shelved. Realizing that this is what has been happening and recognizing the recurring themes in your love life are huge steps to getting you back on the path to finding true love. Changing your beliefs about yourself and thus your relationship habits is not necessarily easy to do, but it can be done! There are steps you can take to empower yourself as you reframe your relationship strategies, beliefs and, finally, outcomes. Below are some strategies for getting off that merry-go-round.
- Develop self-awareness. Know who you are and be that authentic self. I don’t mean to sound glib. We are all on a path of self-awareness. Perhaps you do know yourself but have not been paying attention. Maybe you are too busy focusing on the other people in your life! Time to focus on you.
So sit down with yourself and outline what is important to you:
- Identify your core values. Your values, whether conscious or unconscious, determine the decisions you make. You have values for all aspects of your life— family, health, career, and relationships. When you live your life aligned with your core values you will feel on track and fulfill one of your highest needs: for your life to have meaning. Write your values down in order of importance. Doing so will help you understand your priorities and recognize a partner who shares those key values.
- Identify your limiting beliefs—about yourself—and decide not to accept them anymore. For instance, if you believe you have to be the caretaker, and never nurtured in return, know that about yourself so you can release that belief and find a life partner who aligns with a new belief—that you are worthy of attention and love.
- Be your authentic self. If you are able to identify your core values and limiting beliefs, you’ve taken the first step towards being your authentic self. Embrace your core values and overcome your limiting beliefs and voilà! You will find that you are attracting like-minded people and automatically deterring those who do not belong in your life. You will have created space for the right person to show up.
Knowing what makes you “you” will help you recognize when you are acting to maintain a relationship in a way that goes against your grain. That self-knowledge will warn you when you act in opposition of your core values. It will also alert you when you are reacting according to limiting beliefs. When you notice either of these things happening, stop and remind yourself of your end goal—a committed long term relationship that supports, enriches and warms you—and act accordingly.
- Identify your needs in a relationship. First of all, not only is it okay to have needs, it is normal, and thus vital that they be recognized and acknowledged in order for you to be happy in love! You may have needs for affection, openness, communication, consideration, commitment, and trust, to name a few. Think of a time when one of your needs wasn’t met in a relationship. Did you feel hurt, angry, frustrated, unappreciated or something similar? Being aware of your needs and that they are legitimate will help you to know when they are not being met. Awareness will help you quickly recognize when and if you are slipping into your old familiar pattern of not caring for your own needs first. Changing the automatic response patterns you’ve developed over the years requires mental intervention and physical action.
- Know your relationship requirements and settle for nothing less. Those non-negotiable, black or white deal breakers. Perhaps you fooled yourself into thinking there is a limited number of possible partners, and that you have to take what you can get or be alone. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is a limiting belief and a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you expect less, you get less. So define what you want. The whole package. Figure that out and then persevere. Trust that if you apply yourself you can get what you really want in your life. Remember, you must be able to say NO to what you DON’T want, to be able to say YES to what you DO want. Be aware. Don’t let limiting beliefs keep you from your relationship requirements. You have the power to choose who, what, where, when and how, and get the relationship you really want.
- Develop a dating strategy and act upon it. Set your dating GPS to get to the relationship you deserve, and then follow the steps until you arrive safely. When you catch yourself veering off course and falling into your old familiar patterns, recalculate and get back on track. Going against the innate response of a learned pattern will feel uncomfortable or unnatural at first because it’s been well practiced and is all too familiar. Do it anyway. You can consciously decide to break that nasty habit.
Getting off the merry-go-round of failed relationships with the wrong people takes some reframing, some stubbornness and a strong belief that you can find the right person. And you can. That much I know for sure!