Why do great women pick people who treat them poorly? Smart, beautiful, incredible individuals – who give 110% to a man who in return, are only half-vested, part-time, and approach the relationship with a “me”, not “we” mentality.
And while your friends see that your relationship is unhealthy, and your rational mind does too, you just can’t seem to get out. You know deep down inside that the person is not right for you, but make justifications and excuses over and over again. You stay. You try even harder. You’re hooked.
Why does this happen?
1. The more you invest, the more vested 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 engage in another act of love, 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 is rooted in the hopes you will get love and acknowledgement 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 male figure in your life as a child, or your first relationship was one that left you hurt and wounded. It is possible that you are choosing relationships that repeat the unavailability, rejection or abandonment issues that were familiar in your earliest relationship with the opposite sex. 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, inaccessible relationships.
I once started to develop feelings for someone and as I started to open up to him, he reacted with aloofness and indifference. It was clear he was emotionally unavailable to me. My natural reaction was to try harder, initiate more, and stick around in hopes he would turn around.
This is what I would have done in my early twenties, but a decade later, I’ve learned to recognize the signs of an unhealthy dynamic. My craving and desire to make it work with a guy like him is similar to those same attractions in my early twenties. 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 than to invest in someone who likes me just a little, but not enough. And this, is the decision that starts to break the unhealthy cycle.
Don’t ever forget your worth. The moment you accept less than your worth, you will get less. The moment you tolerate disrespect and disregard, you set precedent.
3. It’s chemical.
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 behaviour 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 the universe’s way of 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 men, you have to be conscious of the old wounds you need to heal and take action to stop destructive habits and patterns. After all, you have to be the “right one” until you will meet the “right one”.
Disclaimer: This is not a bash on men. I am a woman and writing from a woman’s point of view. You can flip the genders and the same points would apply.