Is your relationship compass pointing you in the wrong direction? Here's how you can correct it.
Last week I wrote an article for YourTango about 8 Signs You Aren’t Ready for a Relationship. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out. I’m going to spend the next week or two delving into each of these more deeply, one by one, and discussing what you can do to make sure that you are ready for a relationship when your Mr. Right comes along.
Is Your Great Guy Compass Accurate?
Is your relationship compass off? Do you find yourself attracting the wrong type of guy over and over again? If this sounds familiar, then your relationship compass might be in need of a calibration.
Just as a compass points North due to the internal magnet that aligns itself to the natural magnetic field of the earth, your relationship compass works off of magnetic attraction – and I know you know what I mean here. You are just magnetically drawn to him – the way he looks at you, the way he talks, the way he moves. You were drawn to him the first time you saw him, and your heart started beating faster the first time he talked to you. We’ve all been there.
Of course, the magnetic attraction part isn’t the problem – in fact it’s wonderful! The problem is when we find that we’re consistently magnetically attracted to a guy that’s not right for us; he could be emotionally unavailable, have alcohol or drug addictions, or an explosive temper. You may find yourself, like many women, drawn to the bad boy, always thinking that you’re going to be the one to tame his wild ways. But after a string of these, you’re starting to realize that bad boys might actually be bad for you.
So what is it that causes you to be drawn to these specific types of men? Well, it really comes down to the early programming of your delicate childhood brain (doesn’t it always?) Everything you know about relationships and love, and what they’re supposed to look like and feel like, you learned in childhood from your parents (or whoever your primary caregivers were.)
The good news? While it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to change your internal programming, it is possible to become aware of this programming, and recognize when it’s leading you to make bad choices. Once you understand why you’re making the choices that you’re making, you can learn to be aware of these motivators, and you can then use that awareness to change the way you make choices in the future.
So let’s get started.
Know What You Don’t Want
Yes, it’s time for lists. Get out your pen and paper or open up a blank Word doc. List out all of your past partners that you were in a serious relationship with (don’t bother including guys that you only went out with for a short time.)
Underneath each name, write out who broke off the relationship, and why. Then list out the qualities that you disliked about your ex, in order of priority, starting with the worst. Was he controlling and/or manipulative? Emotionally unavailable? Unfaithful? Did he have an explosive temper? Was he moody? Get them all down on paper.
If you find that as you’re making your lists, you still have some feelings of hurt and anger over these past relationships, which is very common, take some time to really examine those feelings. Feel them. Let yourself cry.
Then, once you’re done feeling, crying, and grieving, dig deep and find it in you to genuinely forgive each one. For each, try to understand what may have made him the way he was, and realize that he was broken also. Then, in a forgiving and loving way, release those feelings so that you can truly move on. Holding on to these past hurts only makes them continue to hurt – and they’re only hurting you. If you release the negative feelings, you will free yourself to completely heal, which needs to be done before you can be truly healthy in a new relationship.
Take a look at your lists and see which of the bad qualities that you listed are the most common. Typically you will see some that pop up in many, if not all, of your relationships. Maybe all of the guys in your past were heavy drinkers or wound up cheating on you. Make a note of these by circling them, putting a check mark next to them, or using a highlighter (my personal preference.) These are your negative attractors, and are what we will be examining next.
Now think about your childhood. Did one or both of your parents have these traits that you highlighted? Did your father drink a lot or cheat on your mother? Or maybe your parents were very heavy-handed or controlling when it came to alcohol or who you could date, and now you’re rebelling. As children we all wanted to be loved by our parents, and our minds firmly believe our parents loved each other, so how we were treated as children by our parents and how they loved and treated each other become our model for what love is supposed to look like. And since much of this was absorbed sub-consciously, we often don’t even realize this is what’s been going on.
I remember the epiphany I experienced when, after coming off of yet another devastating break-up, I suddenly realized that what I had really been looking for - and finding – in each of these failed relationships, was someone similar to my father who I could finally win over to give me the love I had been looking for my whole life. But I was always seeking it from someone as emotionally unavailable and distant to me as he was. And getting to the root of that was the beginning of attracting something different into my life, as difficult as it was to get to that point in the first place.
Know What You Do Want
Now make a list of all of the qualities of your perfect partner. Note that we’re not talking about superficial things like “tall, dark and handsome”; we’re looking for things more along the lines of responsible, hard-working, funny, affectionate, etc. It may help to go back to your earlier lists and add all of the good qualities that each of your former long term partners possessed (after all, there must have been some reasons you stayed with them so long.) Add these good qualities to your “perfect guy” list.
Now that you have a good picture painted of what you actually want in a guy, and a relationship, try to visualize what it would be like to be in a relationship with this perfect man. Again, you’re not visualizing the physical characteristics – try to keep his physical appearance kind of vague right now. Just picture his values, behaviors and personal traits – how he treats you, how he makes you feel, how you interact with each other, and how you interact as a couple with friends and family. Remember, this is your ideal relationship so go for it – if you want flowers every Friday, go ahead and picture that. If you want steamy passion, don’t hold back. Take some time to picture yourself in as many real-life scenarios as you can think of; the better you can picture it, the more likely it is that you will find it.
Time For Some Self-Reflection
Now for one of the toughest parts, and you need to be completely honest with yourself here – after all, you’re doing this for yourself. Take a look at your negative list – do you see any of these qualities in yourself? If so, make a note of these and take the steps needed to work on them. This is not easy to do, but it’s one of the best things you can do to attract healthy love, in fact it’s critical. Knowing that you’re in a healthy state, physically, mentally, and emotionally will raise your confidence levels and in turn your self-esteem, which will in turn attract confident, healthy men with high self-esteem.
Now compare the list of what you do want in a guy to how you view yourself – do you see each of these qualities in yourself? If not, then once again you know where your areas of improvement lie. We really do attract what we are, so it’s all about being the type of person, with the same values, beliefs, and character traits that you’re looking for in a partner. If you want someone who’s kind, be kind. If you want someone who’s trustworthy, make sure that you’re trustworthy yourself.
Great! I know what I want. Now what?
Congratulations - you now have a detailed vision of what you want in a relationship, and that’s probably more than you’ve ever had before. Typically people spend more time thinking about what kind of television they’re going to buy than what they’re really looking for in a partner, so you’re way ahead of the game!
So the next time you start dating a guy (which will be soon, since you’re radiant, confident, and beautiful – and you know what you want), really try to see if he has any of the negative qualities that you have been drawn to so magnetically in the past. But this time don’t overlook them or make excuses for him. Even if you’re tempted to. Because I know firsthand just how easy it is to make someone appear to have more potential than he does, simply because we’re feeling that magnetism again.
I’m not necessarily saying to cut him loose right at the first sign, but really try to be aware of the behavior, and if it looks like what has caused you heartache in the past, make sure that you see it for the red flag that it is. It’s about being very deliberate in your choices, and not allowing yourself to fall in love with the feeling of love; most of the time that feeling is really just your insecurity surfacing, causing you to feel happy that you’ve been chosen. Remember, we’re doing the choosing now.
Know that this will not be easy. Going against your true nature will always be uncomfortable – especially when it’s so subconsciously ingrained. If in doubt, when you meet a guy that you like, but you’re not sure if he could be more of the same, ask yourself right away, does dating this man feel like it could result in a long term, happy, healthy relationship like the one I’ve been visualizing? Then you’ll have your answer. It’ll get easier with time.
At some point you’ll find the guy that you’re both attracted to and is safe for you. And that’s when you know your compass is working well.
Next post in this series: Do You Need a Man in Your Life to Feel Happy?