Why do great women pick people who treat them poorly? Smart, successful, loving individuals – who give 110% to a partner who in return, are only half-vested, part-time, or unavailable.
Can you relate to being in relationships where you’re only fed breadcrumbs? You know, just enough so you never starve, but never enough to get you full.
But even though you know on a logical level the that the person is not right for you, you keep making justifications and excuses over and over again. You stay. You try harder. You’re hooked.
Why does this happen? I’m here to tell you, there is nothing wrong with you. You’re not a broken person needing to get fixed. There’s some basic psychology at play, and the more you learn about the inner workings of the mind, the better choices you will make.
The move you invest, the more invested you become
When you don’t get the love and attention you want, it may seem natural to give more. You invest more – only to find yourself more disappointed, depleted and feeling insignificant with each attempt to create/repair the connection. This is what psychologist Dr. Jeremy Nicholson calls the principle of “sunk costs”.
“Doing favors for others and treating them well, leads us to value and love them…They do all of the “doing”. They are the ones waiting on their partner, doing good deeds, buying gifts, etc. As a result, they have a lot of love (sunk costs) for their date or mate. But, their partner has not invested. They have not given a thing. So, they are not at all in love or committed.”
Before you do another thing – whether that be cooking your love interest dinner, buying a gift, bending your schedule to make it easier for them to see you – ask yourself what your true intention is. Are you giving without expectation of receiving anything back in return? Are you keeping score? Or, is there a part of your giving that’s rooted in hopes of earning attention or validation in return? If there isn’t a foundation of love, respect and commitment with the person you’re dating, giving more and doing nice things will not cause them to love you more, it’ll only result in you becoming increasingly attached.
2. “We accept the love we think we deserve.” – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Perhaps you had an unstable parental figure in your life growing up, or your first relationship was one that left you hurt and feeling rejected. It is possible that you are choosing relationships that repeat the unavailability, wounding or abandonment issues that were familiar in your earliest relationship with your primary caregiver(s). In a sense, you seek comfort in that familiar scenario – even if it is one filled with angst. These are attractions of deprivation, and it’s possible it stems from your childhood.
The problem is, the longer you continue the cycle, the more your sense of self-worth erodes, making it harder and harder to remove yourself from the pleasure-pain pattern of unhealthy relationships.
A few years ago, I started dating a guy who started off by courting me with a rush of intensity. When I finally started to open up to him, he reacted with aloofness and indifference. It was clear he was emotionally unavailable to me. With the power dynamic switched, my natural reaction was to chase – try harder, initiate more, and stick around in hopes he would turn around.
By through all the self-work I’ve done, I’ve learned to recognize the signs of an unhealthy dynamic. I admit, I was attracted and craving a connection with a man who was unavailable. But what’s different now is my response: I can choose to not engage. I can recognize that I’m worth more and do not need to chase someone who likes me just a little, but not enough. And this, is the decision that starts to break the unhealthy cycle.
Don’t let chemistry cloud your ability to remember your worth. The moment you accept less than your worth, you will get less. The moment you tolerate disrespect and disregard, you set precedent.
Dr. Larry Young, the director for Translational Social Neuroscience, notes that experiencing a loss from a partner – such as a separation or death, is akin to an addict craving drugs. A study showed that voles separated from their vole partner showed high levels of a stress chemical, corticosterone, and experienced an overwhelming anxiety due to their partner loss. The voles are driven to go “home” to their partner because only then does the oxytocin (the feel good hormone associated with pair bonding) can help ease the anxiety the separation caused.
Dr. Young states that the vole behavior is similar to humans – they come back not because they are positively motivated to be with their partners, but because they want the misery of separation to stop.
“We have this normal together, whatever that normal is. And the bad feeling forces you to come back.” He points out that both men and women who have been verbally or physically abused often refuse to leave those relationships similarly to how drugs addicts cannot leave their relationship with drugs. They are chemically hooked. Then, “They rationalize their choice to stay by focusing on positive traits their partner might possess.” Sound familiar?
I truly believe that when it doesn’t work out with someone in the present, it is because it is meant to work out with someone else in the future. But you can’t leave it all up to fate. There’s work to be done on your part too. Each relationship that comes in your life is delivering a lesson for you to learn. If you don’t learn that lesson and evolve, you will only face the same issues with each relationship moving forward. If you want to avoid a lifetime of dating the wrong people, you have to be conscious of the old wounds you need to heal and take action to stop destructive habits and patterns.
The healthier you become on the inside, the healthier the people you will attract, and be attracted to.