Longing for a relationship but having a pattern in which you are always attracted to partners who are wrong for you or partners who aren't interested in a relationship with you can be really painful.
This is especially true when you meet someone you really like. Maybe you've had some deep, satisfying talks with them and really fun times together. It feels like there is so much potential! You can't get them out of your head and find yourself anxiously waiting in anticipation for a text from them or hoping that they will soon make plans to get together with you. But they always seem out of reach, leaving you longing. Ultimately, you learn they don't feel the same or they don't want a relationship. This really hurts and can make you feel like something is wrong with you, like something keeps you from being good enough for someone like this to love you back.
We've been talking about attraction a lot in my women's therapy groups, and I hope it gives you some comfort to know that you are not the only one who goes through this experience. There is research and theory on attraction that can help us understand these patterns and what compels us to repeat them over and over again. The good news is that you can correct the patterns. It's not easy work and doesn't happen overnight, but there is a pathway to healing.
Everyone is unique and there are a variety of components (attraction, boundaries, self-acceptance, vulnerability) that play a role in allowing us to have healthier and more satisfying relationship experiences. But if you find yourself in the pattern described above, I recommend taking some time to listen to an excellent podcast episode that came out last week. The show is hosted by clinical psychologist Dr. Nazanin Moali and her guest does a wonderful job of breaking down the principles of attraction and what drives our desire for individuals who never give us what we long for and who leave us in pain.
As a supplement, another resource I point my clients to for understanding their attraction patterns is the theory of attachment (which you can simply google). The book Attached is based on this theory and has been helpful to many people. I know the book looks a little gimmicky but it is actually based on good science!
Finally, one of my clients found this terrific article in the NYTimes last week which is a playoff of the above patterns....one where you find yourself in a quick whirlwind relationship that feels like the most amazing thing ever and then it crashes not long after it begins: How to Stop Rushing Into Love
Love can be complicated. But if you're reading this and confused by your patterns this Valentines Day I hope you will have some self-compassion and know that, like Ken Page says in the podcast I've linked to, seeking love is not weakness but it is wise. Love is meaningful. We are social beings and working on this part of your life is valid and important.
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About Melissa King
I am a licensed mental health counselor in New York City with a psychotherapy office in the neighborhood of Murray Hill in Manhattan. Find out more about me here. I'd love to hear from you. Email me if there's a topic you'd like to read about here.