3 Reasons Why You Keep Ruining Relationships Without Even Trying
By Romal Tune, author of the forthcoming book “Love is An Inside Job: Getting Vulnerable with God”
Over the course of my life I have made many bad relationship choices. That is not to say the people I chose to date were bad, but the reason I chose to date them were not always the best. Before I go any further I should mention that I have been in therapy for several years working to heal various aspects of trauma associated with my childhood. For the last year I have been working on my next book and looking back at challenging childhood experiences to identify how they would sabotage my adult life through unhealthy decision making. As my therapist and I continue to work on healing my narrative – the negative stories I have been telling myself- some of our conversations have included relationship choices.
When it comes to failed relationships I had a pattern and I think others may have similar behaviors because of their childhood experiences. Every relationship failed for the same reasons. The bottom line was simply that I was not emotionally healthy enough to be fully present for a healthy relationship. These are some of the mistakes that I made and other people may be making as well.
Looking for your parent in your partner:
If you grew up, like me, in a home where affection and love were not communicated often or at all, then it is easy to find yourself living in those same behaviors with your partner. What I have realized is that the affection and nurturing characteristics I did not receive from my mother, I found myself looking for in my mate. I wanted my partner to be everything that my mom was not. One of the lessons I learned through therapy and talking with friends who witnessed every failed relationship was that “Your mate is not meant to be your mother and your mother was never meant to be your mate.” The person you choose to be with now should not be held responsible for healing what you did not receive back then. Over the course of time, he or she should be made aware of the childhood experience that may still be influencing who you are now so that he or she can better understand you. However, your partner is not responsible for healing those wounds – at best he or she can help to sooth them. It is your responsibility to get the help that you need to heal your story and learn the emotional skills that you need in order to experience the peace that you were always meant to have and always deserved.
Healing the trauma of your childhood is often about healing the story that you have been telling yourself about you. Therapy is one tool that helps with this process. Learning to understand that are just as worthy now as you were then to receive the love that you always wanted. The key is learning to give it to yourself – learning to love you, all of you, and that included the wounded child within. When you are able to love yourself you are able to offer love to someone else. Broken people break things, but people who learn to love themselves are able to empathize with the emotional needs of their partner.
Making decisions based on your fractures and not your future:
Looking back I can see that many of my relationship choices were based on being with someone who could “fix my fractures.” I made choices based on the void left by my childhood trauma. I wanted someone who was the opposite, in every way, of what I experienced growing up. Guided by my broken places, my inner child was looking to feel safe once and for all. The problem is that when relationships are based on who you were rather than who you are now, the person you are dating is getting a false representation of the real you. They are led to believe that you are willing to be vulnerable and emotionally available. Overtime they come to realize that those were only expressions of your wounded child – the part of you that does not always know how to communicate your feelings or show empathy when the other person needs it.
You are not willing to be vulnerable and do not even know how:
Relationships require vulnerability. There is no way around it. Vulnerability requires trust and trust requires risk. For those of us who grew up experiencing emotional and/or physical trauma, these things are challenging. Emotional boundaries are built in order to avoid being hurt. Vulnerability was not something I experienced growing up. My family members did not openly express how they felt or share anything that was deeply personal. We did not communicate, our fears, anxieties, hopes or dreams out of fear of being ridiculed for being weak, lacking confidence, or unrealistic. As a young man vulnerability was certainly not something that was rewarded- we are told to be tough, not to cry, get over it, and “man up.” All of which make it difficult to become an emotionally available adult who understands that vulnerability is actually a sign of courage not weakness. I have recently learned that it requires a certain level of self awareness in order to be a man who knows when it is time to be vulnerable and when it is time to be a warrior. Every situation does not require a warrior but sometimes the victory, if there is one at all, comes with vulnerability and not losing the person you love.
If you realize that you have lacked the ability to be vulnerable with your mate then therapy can help. You can learn to be vulnerable.
Therapy as well as a loving community of close friends continues to be helpful to me on the journey to healing my story and living an emotionally healthy life. My encouragement to you is that you can do the same thing. You have what it takes to break the cycle of emotional trauma to experience love and a peace of mind. There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking the support of a therapist and being courageous enough to let friends and family help you turn wounds into scars – the evidence that healing is possible.