Why You Keep Having Unhealthy Relationships (And How to Stop)

healthy relationships self-learning Feb 04, 2020

This article was originally published on Soulaia.com


Romantic relationships can be the most exciting, rewarding, and fun experience or they can be the most stressful and difficult one. It all comes down to how you do it. How you do it usually comes down to the fears you have or have not faced, the ways that you’ve seen work or not work, and how willing you are to do things differently and boldly this time around.


What follows is a brief guide to unconscious, unfulfilling dating replete with the ways we’ve done it before and that we know don’t give us what we want – i.e., how not to do it.


How Not To Do It


Expect your partner to meet all of your needs.


Take your happiness and place it solely in your partner’s hands. Expect him or her to make sure that everything they do causes you to beam with joy. Expect them to be your predominant source of physical, material, psychological, and social support. Place the responsibility of your emotional, sexual, and life satisfaction solely on them, and don’t forget to remind them that it’s them who is in charge of building you the world that you want.


Being aware of, communicating, and ensuring the relationship honors your needs is key to a healthy, fulfilling relationship. Expecting your partner to meet all of your needs, however, is not. This is where the term “needy” gets such a bad wrap. When you are secure enough in yourself to know your needs and ensure that you and your partner find ways to honor them through the relationship, you are empowered. When you expect your partner to meet all of your needs and in doing so, relieve you of any responsibility of meeting your own needs and/or of co-creating a relationship that does, you are needy. A product of society’s view that when you meet Prince Charming or Princess Pretty, they will lead you to eternal happiness and make all of your problems go away, this expectation of having another person fulfill all our needs is something many of us come face to face with at some point or another. Then we discover its falsity.


If you want to keep dating unconsciously and creating an unhealthy and eventually unhappy relationship, place loads of expectations on your partner, get really angry or upset when s/he doesn’t meet them, and eventually break up with them because they’re not doing their “job” of meeting your numerous needs. If you’re ready to do it consciously, acknowledge your needs and share the responsibility of meeting those needs with your partner, rather than placing the onus fully on him or her. Meeting all of someone else’s needs is a tall order that places a lot of pressure on a person, yet we constantly do it in relationships. The interesting thing is that when we free our partner of that responsibility (which no one can really accomplish for anyone else), they can show up as the loving companion, exciting co-adventurer, and present lover that you so deeply want them to be.


Pretend that you don’t have any needs.


Make your partner the center of your world, prioritize their needs, and forget about your own. When your partner asks, “Where do you want to go for dinner?” simply say “Wherever you want” and when s/he asks “How do you want to spend the weekend?”, say “Your choice”, “I have no preference”, or “I’m good with anything. Totally up to you.” When your partner shows up 20 minutes late without saying a word, stay mum about the fact that punctuality is actually really important to you, as is communication. When s/he asks how you like to be touched, tell him or her that what they’re doing is perfect even though you’d really like them to do more of that thing they did just a few moments ago.


The truth is that even the most easy-going person has needs and desires. However, it’s the people-pleasing person disguised as an easy-going person who acts like they have none. While it may appear that this kind of attitude keeps things flowing smoothly without a hitch, it’s actually setting the relationship up for otherwise avoidable challenges down the road. When you pretend you don’t have needs, there is no way that your needs can be met. Unmet needs, over time, lead to resentment and often undermine the trust that has already been built in the relationship.


Hide or deny how you really feel.


Don’t be forthcoming with your feelings. Pretend you don’t care. Play it “cool”. Make him or her guess about how you really feel. Give mixed signals. Act hot, then cold. Draw closer and then pull away. Whatever you do, don’t let him or her know that the way they bounce when they walk, the way they light up a room, and the way they so passionately and dorkily talk about the thing that they love makes you smile like a little kid and that each successive time you make plans to hang out, you feel like the luckiest person in the world for having the chance to get to know them.


A healthy relationship that gets stronger and more mutually fulfilling by the day rests on the supposition that “the way you feel about me is close enough to the way that I feel about you that I don’t have to worry about it. I can just be myself and trust that we are on the same page unless one of us indicates otherwise”. A hot and cold demeanor, albeit usually an unconscious function of fear, breeds insecurity which leads your partner to show you hot and cold behavior in return. Playing it “cool”, just like it sounds, keeps things cool and comfortable when what you really want is for things to get warm and intimate.


The antidote? Don’t play it cool. Don’t play it hot. Just don’t play. Save your games for Xbox, and leave them out of your relationships. Sure, it can be fun to be in the unknown zone with hormones running amok, but being in the known zone gives you something you can’t possibly find in the zone of unknowns: the fun and excitement of getting to know the body, the mind, and everything in between of someone new without fear, without needing to hold back, without worrying about whether you’re ‘doing it’ right or what the other person will think.


“How invigorating it is to know that you do it for me, I do it for you, and we can be co-adventurers in exploring the beautiful world of unknowns around us rather than spending our time trying to figure out the unknowns we unnecessarily create between us because we’re afraid of what will happen if we just get real about how we feel”

Live in perpetual fear of losing (or being smothered by) your partner.


Don’t let yourself enjoy the present moments of your dating experience. Be crippled by the idea that this person may not want to be with you in a few weeks, months, years, or forever. Be crippled also by the idea that you may feel so compatible and grow to love this person so much that you start to share in each others’ hobbies, spend lots of time together, and decide to eventually to move in together, leaving you with less time and space for yourself.


To navigate a relationship consciously rather than out of past habit, it helps to be aware of your inner landscape – i.e., the thoughts running through your mind about this person and/or about the relationship. It also helps to explore the validity of these thoughts (i.e., do I really have a reason to believe that this person will leave me? Or to think that I will feel trapped in a relationship with them?) and to work with those that you know logically are irrational but that are rooted so deeply in some past experience or belief system that they do, in fact, feel very real. Our past doesn’t have to become our future, and we can help ensure that it doesn’t by getting to know the roots of the stories we tell ourselves and by getting honest with ourselves about the ways that these stories continue to live within and impact us.


Which brings me to the next tip...


Pretend that getting close to someone doesn’t rattle you one bit.


Act like everything is hunky-dory, like you’re a pro at letting someone in and as if letting someone see parts of you that many others don’t doesn’t challenge you one bit. “Psssh, I’ve done this before. I got this. Dating ain’t got nothing on me”. Except that it does. Dating’s got something on all of us. Because it’s where we (hopefully) get vulnerable, get honest, take risks in going after what we want, and become insecure about things we thought we were over as we wonder whether the other person feels about us the same way that we feel about them.


The fear of abandonment can be a very palpable experience in a relationship. So can the fear of getting so close that you feel trapped. Relationships are, in fact, where our underlying fears and emotions that have been buried for years are often unleashed. That’s why it’s important to acknowledge the fears that exist within and between us and our partner, so that we can navigate them, rather than habitually act from them. All that your fears (like the fear of abandonment, or the fear of being smothered by another person) do is point out the things that you value most in life. If you are to create a satisfying, fulfilling relationship, you’ve got to share what’s important to you with your (potential or existing) partner as you internally navigate the basis and validity of those fears. “Hey, I love your company so much, and I really value my independence too. I’ve noticed that I start to feel like running away when we spend more than 24 hours together at a time. I really don’t want to run from you; we’re building something great together.”



One of my mottos in relationships is “help me help us”. In order for me to help us, I need a bit of intel on what thoughts, fears, and triggers are coming up for you as a function of our relationship. For you to help us, you’ve got to know the same about me. It doesn’t mean we always have to talk about our feelings, but it does mean we need to practice, moment by moment, being open about what’s pushing our buttons and making us feel anything less than good. This is how we grow.


See conflict as a deal breaker.


Sense disagreement? Hear a preference that you know is going to clash with your own? Runnnnnn. Fast. Tell them “I’m sorry; this isn’t working for me”. Break up and go and find yourself someone who thinks exactly like you do and who wants exactly what you want. Live happily ever after, in continual peace and harmony, feeling phenomenal about having found the romantic recipe to preventing any and all possible conflict. Maybe even publish a book about it, wondering why it is that others haven’t discovered this fail-proof relationship formula, guaranteed to provide eternal relational bliss.


Conflict and disagreement are the sultry juice of life. An expression of different perspectives, desires, preferences, needs, and values, conflict simply denotes an opportunity to understand each other better and to explore ways that we can co-create the best possible life experience together. To try to prevent it is to be stagnant and resist growth. To live without it is an invitation for boredom. If you resist the momentary challenge of disagreement with someone who thinks and wants differently than you do, you also resist an immaculate opportunity for self-awareness, self-development, and self-mastery. As Charlie Chaplin says, “We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born!”


Charlie Chaplin also says that “life can be wonderful if you aren’t afraid of it”. So what do you say we stop being afraid? Stop being afraid and get real with ourselves, firstly about the old patterns and unconscious habits that haven’t worked for us in the past that are following us into our present and future relationships, and secondly, about the mindsets and actions that it will benefit us to cultivate so that we can more readily create the kind of relationship and ultimately the kind of life that we really want. No one said it was going to be easy, but it is without a doubt going to be worth it!


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