This is a question that is sadly asked by many. The reasons are multi-fold, but the most important thing to understand here is that you don’t “attract” unhealthy relationships!
You are not some magnet for bad luck. You don’t put anything out there whereby you should expect, nor deserve, any unhealthy relationships to come into your life. That said, there are steps you can take, personal work, that will help make sure you are only in healthy relationships.
This concept of “attracting bad partners” has two problems with it. First it does not recognize how how prevalent poor relationship skills are. Second it does not address our role in allowing, participating, and/or creating a relationship with dynamics that are not loving. It isn’t that we attract the negative, we just don’t push it away and at times hold onto it. We will address each of these issues as we discuss a clear route forward towards choosing healthy relationships. This won’t always be easy, nor absolute, but part of the art of life is learning how we can better step into our relationships with more love for our partners and ourselves.
Why is it that I find myself in relationships with the same damaging dynamics of my parents? Why are women and men who grow up in homes of domestic violence significantly more likely to be in relationship with abuse later in life? Being a child in a family with domestic abuse is in fact the largest predictor of both being abusive later in relationships and/or being in a relationship with an abusive partner. Physical violence aside, this pattern is also very strong for other dysfunctional relationship dynamics that were common occurrences for someone to see as a child. AND No, people are not out looking for someone to be mean to them. So what is happening here?
We are right in the middle of generations of abuse, lack of love and clarity, and poor coping mechanisms. This cycle of abuse has been passed down in some degree through practically every facet of our culture. It is our turn to heal the wounds of our forefathers and grandmothers, providing a more loving world for our children. Either we deal with this now, or just continue passing down patterns of abuse, neglect, shame, and fear. Lets choose love!
Where the cycle starts
When we are children we look up to our parents with instinctive wide eyes and an open mind. We soak up language, culture, beliefs, and, very importantly, our most basic understanding of what Love is. The problem is that parents are not perfect. They are stressed, over worked, exhausted, and still working though all the junk that has been passed down from generations before them. The definition of Love can become blurred and muddied by the contradictory actions of the relationships we are at witness to.
No one wants to be yelled at, hit, ignored, disrespected; unloved. Instead people become dense to these actions. They do not disregard the person who is being unloving to them as unloving, because they are used to seeing these unloving actions so closely linked to adults who have provided their very definition of love.
We don’t want to just blame parent here either. Even in the best of circumstances growing up we can find ourselves in unhealthy relationships later on in life that hurt us. In truth not every experience in life makes us stronger, some experiences we need to heal from using the natural strength already within us. It is not uncommon to find ourselves in relationships that slowly wear us down and over time desensitize us to unloving action.
If someone has only known pure love in their life then if a new partner were to yell at them saying things to hurt them, the dating would stop. The natural reaction would be “no one who loves me would say that to me.” Why would anyone put up with that when all they have ever known was pure love?
On the other hand, if someone was used to playing with their father in pure joy one moment and watching their father yell their mother the next moment, then they are much less likely to leave the unloving dynamic when someone yells at them. The irony here can be that they may be even more hurt by the action, but less likely to see the abuser as incompatible partner. Instead they are more likely to see them as a loving person who is just having a bad day. Now if this leads to violence, and they have never experienced that, then that might be the final straw. The final straw then being leaving a relationship. Dismissing the idea of a relationship is informed by the love we are used to seeing and the love we give ourselves. When you hold absolute pure love for yourself you will only be surrounded by healthy relationships, for anything else won’t be confused with a reationship at all. Love is naturally translated into healthy boundaries whereby unloving actions are not acceptable.
“When you hold absolute pure love for yourself you will only be surrounded by loving relationships, for anything else wont be confused with a relationship at all. ”
Three is no reason for relationships to not be consistently loving. A strong statement when you think about it. So how do we stay away from such relationships, or transform the relationships we are in? We can love every person from the depths of our hearts, and can choose relationships that offer nothing but love in return.
The first step in the path to love is accepting both that we are deserving of love and that we will only offer love to our own partners. In life we meet these amazing, charismatic, wonderul people with amazing bodies and a knack for making us smile. Many have not done the inner work necessary to cope with life’s struggles in healthy ways. Instead people tear apart the ones who they love most, abusing the intimacy created between the two.
Now, imagine if people spent as much time learning how to love as they do trying to build an attractive career or getting in shape. As much energy learning how to better handle their frustrations as they do what they are wearing. What if we were more concerned with what our first loving act would be each morning than the first impressions we would make that day?
We all experience experience struggle. We will have those days where a perfect storm of events pushes us to our max. When we are consciously loving, i.e., loving on principle and with purpose, this does not dismiss loving action. Under no circumstances should a partner say something with the intention of hurting you, under no circumstance should they commit an action with the intent of hurting, nor should they withhold help with the intent of hurting. It is not loving to denigrate, to demean, scare, or disregard someone’s feelings. See the theme? It is not loving to wish harm or heartache. We should never be in relationships with people who would feel this way toward us, good or bad day alike. Thats not Love!
Now people are not one way or the other. Many are very sweet, but at times also very mean. Choose to recognize that you don’t need to accept one part for the other. You as an individual, and we as a culture, can demand that all actions and words towards us come from a space of love. Most importantly in a relationship.
Now, lets not be too ideological here. This isn’t to say your partner will never be angry. Anger can be very healthy. This isn’t to say they wont be frustrated, or that they will always speak to you in a soft loving tone. This is about them being mature enough to have your thoughts, feelings, and the connection you two have built together at the forefront of their mind. It is about being mature enough to accept that your ultimate happiness is more important than any argument, even when angry with you. It is also about being loving and mature enough to take your feelings into account when making decisions.
Here are a few things to watch out for, and not tolerate:
- It is not loving to say something to someone with the intention of hurting them.
- It is not loving to use aggression to intimidate someone into listening to or accepting your point of view.
- It is never acceptable to live a lifestyle that makes your partner feel unsafe or uncomfortable while trying to convince them to stay with you.
- It is never acceptable to physically hurt someone.
- It is never acceptable to limit your partners physical autonomy.
- It is not loving to dismiss someones feelings because they do not match with your logic.
Be the Change
Similarly, being a loving person necessitates taking into account the needs of those they love. That doesn’t mean that one doesn’t have personal autonomy. To the contrary, one is at their highest level of autonomy when taking into account the needs of others and themselves. Like a mother and her child, every thought, every action, carries with it the intention of love.
This intention then becomes ones art, as we learn to better love those who we are in relationship with.
Creating and accepting only loving relationships not only feels great, but is a needed step forward in healing the wounds of the generations before us. The work we do lets our children can grow up only expecting and allowing love in their own life.
“Offer not an act of love, but a promise. A promise to learn how to love better and better every day. You need not entangle this promise with words; rather, unleash this promise on every thought that crosses your mind.”
What does this look like?
Love is a practice of pervasive loving action and intention. While it is unrealistic to expect your parnter to always make lots of money, stay in preistine physical shape, never get upset, or always do what you want, it is not unjustified to ask that your relaionship be built on love alone. So talk with your partner. Together you can decide what you will allow into the relationship you are co-creating. This is not a space for compromise; rather, a space to get everything on the table. Find out what has been an issue for you in the past, what you want to change that you saw in your parent’s or past relationship’s interactions, what would feel really good.
SHould I stay or SHould I go now?
I have had a lot of questions around if it is best to move on, or work these issues out in the relationship itself. I am a firm believer that relationships are great places to learn a lot about ourselves. The issue of unconditional love, however, can be a little tricky. Humans are naturally more addicted to inconsistancy than consistancy, so it is very easy to get stuck in unhealthy relationships. This is especially true when there are high highs, i.e. super loving phases of compassion and understanding, mixed with low lows. So when is it healthy to say “lets do this,” and when is it best to move on? What should working on an issue like unconditional loving look like?
Sometimes the only way to learn is to walk away. With physical violence the only way to say “that is not ok” is to leave the relationship. Anything shy of a complete refutation of the action subconsciously says that what they did can be excused and worked out of. This is why practically every relationship that sees violence sees it again, no matter how sorry they are. In fact the degree of how sorry they are only shows the degree to which they don’t have control over themselves. The best thing you can do for youself and them is walk away. Sometimes, not always, such an act is powerful enough that they start to get it that violence will not be tollerated and change for future relationships.
If you do decide to work with your partner on this one only do so with professional help, and if you feel 100% safe in the relationship. Never if the violence is directed at you or another person. If you really all soul-mates you will come back together years from now when they have learned how to manage their anger.
If monogomy is very important to you, then this is also something that will usually come up again if someone cheats on you or pushes you to let them be with others. It is also often best to just leave. Why? Disagreements are one thing but if someone is willing to put their search for pleasure over your emotional pain than there are inevitably bigger issues present. They are not loving you, they are using you. I know that is a harsh statement. They may care about you deeply but “loving you” is the act of treating you with love and thats not love. Like physcial violence it also corrolates with very high recitivism. When people cheat on someone a basic trust is broken. It can be rebuilt, but this takes years. It is best to seek couples counceling. In the case of trying to convince you to let them be with multiple poeple it depends on you and them. If you are ok with the idea, great. See if it works, but please read my article on monogomy first: here. If the idea makes you uncomforatable and they push you anyway, or do it behind your back, then they are activly choosing a path that they know will bring you pain just so they can have pleasure. That’s the problem. Its not about sex anymore. This is not “your needs vs my needs.” Emotional pain and physical pleasure are not on the same playing field. So if someone is willing to propose this, then there are other issues present that would allow them to place their wants so high above your needs. Watch out as working through this one is a lot more messy than just not sleeping around anymore. That will be the tip of the iceburg.
Many in either of these relationships will dismiss these warnings. Why?
The reason why it is so sticky is because we are wired to handle inconsistant love wrong! Take this small example: I once met a guy talked to me about taking dates to a strip club. I was a little bit in shock, but then he explained. They would get jealous and that night he would get laid. Really? Why? Becuase they would feel they needed to prove their own worth and sexyness to him. The proper responce to this set up is to walk away (again this wasn’t because they enjoyed it, he brough them there because they didn’t). But many women don’t respond that way. On a small level they want to be chosen. It makes them feel good. “He could have all these women but chose me.” Men are not typcially as pulled in by this, but it is very common for women (Thats another post entirely). In fact, there are even dating books that teach men how to manipulate women using tatics like this. Sadly, they work, very well. Inconsistant love is very unhealthy and can lead to some deep seeded emotional wounds, and also very very addictive.
Our attachment to inconsistancy is helpful in some areas of evolution. For example when foraging for food if you find a type of bush that has a 5% chance of having great healthy berries, then it is helpful to not get discouraged by coming across a few bushes with no berries at all. This pattern within us can be very unhealthy when applied to relationships. Here we should expect and create consistancy. That doesn’t mean stale relationships either. It just means that your needs should always be taken into account with love.
So when do you stay? Healthy times to stay are if both of you are equally excited by the idea of accepting unconditional love, and the current unloving actions are actions that you and your partner have control over. This is an exciting time to deepen your vunerablity and connection. As I stated before this process is healing generations of abuse that has been passed down. To do this be proactive and not reactive. Start, end, and have every argument confirming that you love them. You should see tangable results and not just lots of “I am sorry’s.” Study and use nonviolent communication. The REAL nonviolent communication: here. Personally I make a promise with every partner. “I will love you and be there for you for the rest of my life. I will only stay in the relationship, however, as long as it is healthy for both of us.” Some of my past loves are my most treasured friends. Explore the contents of this blog and seek couples counceling if you really love eachother but are having a hard time creating a container of only love. Lets work together to create a future where our children are pushed away from unloving dyanmics and not pulled into them.