You may think your attraction to a person depends on how hot, sweet, or successful he or she is. But the psychology behind our romantic choices says our attraction is based on our unresolved childhood wounds. Subconsciously, we choose partners with the same personality traits, and even physicality, of the parent or caretaker we had the most problems with.
You might be thinking, “That’s ridiculous; I never even got along with my mother, why would I want to date her?” But it’s the devil we know, it’s comfortable, and subconsciously we’re drawn like a magnet to people with similar characteristics. Since we couldn’t heal those conflicts as a child, we try to heal them as adults. We do so through our romantic relationships. The problem is that most people don’t want to work on their issues. So when they come up in your relationship, they usually tear it apart.
If you are lucky enough to have a partner who is willing to work on your shared issues, it can be the best relationship you ever had. However, finding that agreeable someone can seem like looking for a needle in a haystack. I suggest learning what your issues are and then learning how to identify and avoid the specific traits that don’t work for you when you’re choosing a partner.
The following exercise is imperative for you if you want to improve your relationship choices. You may think that all your romantic partners have been very different. Perhaps on some level that is true. But if you start to dig deeper, I think you might be surprised at what you find.
What is Your Pattern?
- Make a list of all your significant romantic partners.
- Next to each name, list all his qualities and characteristics; include both positive and negative traits. For example: giving, affectionate, trustworthy, judgmental, argumentative, controlling, cheap, jealous, emotionally closed, selfish, generous, etc. Be as specific as you can.
- On a separate page, list the primary caretakers from your childhood. Include older siblings and any close relatives.
- List all the qualities and characteristics of each family member.
- Compare your two lists side by side. Highlight all the characteristics your people have in common.
- Draw a circle around the family member that has the most personality traits in common with the people you’ve dated.
You’ll most likely discover that the people you’ve been choosing share personality traits with one of your caretakers. It won’t necessarily be the parent of the opposite sex; it’s usually the person you argued with, couldn’t communicate with, or were forced to be the adult for, the one who you never felt good enough for, or the one you never got enough time with. Possibly even all of the above.
Now that you have a better idea of what does and does not make you happy, you should be able to make better choices in romantic partners.
Everyone has some issues; nobody is perfect. You have to find someone who has his or her issues under control, or whose issues don’t stimulate your issues negatively. Then respect each other by not intentionally pushing known emotional buttons.
If you need more help recognizing what you’re doing wrong or finding who could be right for you I offer personal coaching.
Learn more about creating a healthy relationship and enforcing healthy boundaries in my book Giving Up Junk-Food Relationships: Recipes for Healthy Choices.