I have this friend who reads this site and she’s probably going to be pissed that I’m using her as an example of what not to do when it comes to relationships (um, sorry in advance!), but here it goes. This friend, whom I’ll call Carol, and I were talking the other day and she was telling me about this new guy she just started seeing after a rather painful breakup. I was happy she took my advice to get back on the horse and not waste too much time wallowing over her ex, but I was really concerned when she told me about one of her conversations with the new guy.
“I told him I’m really attracted to guys who are emotionally crippled,” she said, stirring her cappuccino.
“What did he say?” I asked, afraid to hear the answer.
“He said, ‘Well, I’m emotionally crippled.’ And I said, ‘Oh, we’ll get along famously then.'”
“Carol!” I said, rolling my eyes, “When someone tells you what he is, listen!”
I feel like it’s such a favor people do when they tell you early on who they are. Carol spent over a year with her ex before she finally realized just how emotionally crippled he was and moved on, and here this new guy was kind enough to give her that information in their first week together. How nice of him! But, of course, like most of us, Carol has a relationship pattern — she gets involved with men who are emotionally unavailable and then spends most of her time obsessing over why things aren’t working out — and though she’s beginning to recognize the pattern, it’s not so easy to break it. Unfortunately, things with the new guy are already going south and it’s tough to see her in exactly the same place she spent the last year with the ex — sad, frustrated and down on herself and guys in general.
But, it’s not guys who are the problem. There are good guys out there — guys who are emotionally available and ready for a committed relationship. But Carol, and everyone else who keeps repeating the same dysfunctional relationship patterns over and over, won’t find them if they don’t make a conscious effort to break the pattern. Recognizing the pattern is the first step. The next step is make a conscious decision each day, just like in a 12-step program, to resist the pattern. And when temptation to fall off the wagon is too great to resist any longer, you call for help. You reach out to a friend or loved one and ask them to talk you off the ledge. You go to a movie, go for a walk, go to the gym, cut your hair, buy some new clothes, book a weekend getaway, fire up an online profile, focus on work, focus on your future, write a list of all the things you want to do before you die, write a list of all the ways your relationship pattern has failed you in the past and then every time you feel tempted to follow it again, read it. Read it again and again and again until it’s yellowed and tearing. And maybe by then, the pattern will finally be broken. And you’ll be happy. And you’ll finally understand what a gift it was that time someone told you exactly who he was and you finally quit wasting your precious time thinking this one, this one would be different. Because it never is — that’s why it’s called a pattern.
So, what’s your relationship pattern you need to break? Or, on a more positive note, what is the relationship pattern you have successfully broken and how did you do it?