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When reflecting on and taking inventory of an unhealthy or failed relationship, , do you focus mostly on what the other person did wrong? Do you have a tendency to overlook or deny your role in cultivating these unhealthy relationships? Regardless of how you answer either of these questions, one thing for sure is that it becomes increasingly difficult not to address the part we have played especially when we find ourselves repeating the same relationship over and again, but with different people. At this point, it is safe to assume that I, you, we, may be the common denominator. It must be something we are or are not doing that is keeping the cycle going. That realization, though it may be hard at times, is good because awareness is the first step towards change.

Safe People

Recently in the midst of a conversation about dating relationships, the person with whom I was speaking pondered out loud, what’s wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? As I reflected on these conversations, the book, Safe People came to mind. In it, the authors, Henry Cloud and John Townsend, look at various aspects of safe and unsafe people and the impact of both on relationships. They identify character flaws that contribute to picking unsafe people and the cultivation of unhealthy relationships.

What Is It About Me?

According to the authors, these character flaws have to do with:

  • Being emotionally unavailable and choosing others who also struggle with intimacy and are emotionally unavailable.
  • Having a fear of being alone and choosing to connect with or stay in a relationship just to be with someone even though we see the red flags and know it is unhealthy.
  • Allowing what we feel to dictate decisions we make about another person without balancing and aligning those feelings with rational thinking. Taking in account what is most important to us and what we need while also having done the work of identifying our own shortcomings and ways they might impact our ability to view others accurately.
  • Holding on to the hope that someone who negatively impacts us or is not good for us, will change even though there is no real evidence of change, in order keep from dealing with the pain of an unmet desire.
  • Connecting with others who have those things we desire (social standing, courage, a title, wealth, etc) but lack and in order to identify with and take advantage of those things without having to take a risk, put forth any effort, or take responsibility for getting them.
  • Fear of confronting others and establishing healthy boundaries in order to maintain individuality and protect ourselves from being taken advantage of those who would gladly take charge.
  • Looking at others through rose-colored glasses seeing only the good in them while simultaneously overlooking or minimizing their faults or seeing them as a positive attribute.
  • Needing to be rescued by others and thus not taking responsibility for choices and life.
  • Getting needs met and being trapped in the role of savior and rescuing others.
  • Engaging by default in familiar unhealthy patterns and ways of relating often learned in and modeled by family of origin.
  • Playing the role of victim and viewing ourselves as powerless and acting accordingly in situations where we do have power and choice. Which means leaving ourselves open to be taken advantage of and having others make choices for us.
  • Perfectionism and choosing others who also have perfectionistic tendencies and whose expectations of us mirror the high standards and demands to which we hold ourselves and continuously fail to meet.
  • Continually engaging in the same behaviors over and again without evaluating the previous relationship to acknowledge shortcomings and identify key lessons to use as a prompt for change in future relationships.
  • Having difficulty trusting what we feel, think or perceive as a result of receiving mixed messages from important individuals and influencers in our lives growing up.

Taking Inventory

Are you in between relationships, desiring to make a new connection but too scared or guarded to move forward because you cannot figure out what happened the last time? Are you currently in a sinking relationship and struggling to keep it afloat, having difficulty letting go or are unsure about what to do? If you identified with any of the character flaw areas outlined above, NOW is probably a good time to stop and take inventory.

One of the therapists here at Optimum Joy would be glad to come alongside and help you identify the patterns of relating you engage that negatively impact your relationships and keep you from having positive and joyful interactions with others. Give us a call today.

Written by therapist Roslyn Jordan

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