Stuck in a relationship rut? It might be your parents fault
There is a little boy. His parents are a stay at home mum and a lawyer. One day, his parents decide to divorce. They move into different houses, and the boy has to go back and forth. His mother has to start working, so the boy is put in nursery. Now, he barely sees her and, from that day forward, he only sees his dad on alternate weekends.
In this little boy’s reality, he has lost his parents and his sense of home. His father is now inaccessible, and so is his mother. He has no stability and is suddenly forced to spend the day with strangers: he’s lost the life he loved, he’s in pain and he’s afraid. Sadly, there is no resolution for this, because his parents don’t know how to coach him through the experience emotionally. They are too preoccupied with their own emotional pain and in his parents’ reality, they perceive they are still there for him.
THERE MAY BE TROUBLE AHEAD
We cannot move past whatever is unresolved within us. This trauma in the boy’s childhood was never resolved, and so he grew up trying to find closure, but unconsciously. Now as an adult, he continuously finds himself in situations where the women in his romantic life are unavailable to him. It always seems as if they have something more important to do than be with him. His friendships start out close but then suddenly, they abandon him for other friends and pursuits, or move away. Subconsciously, this man keeps repeating the same experience of abandonment. He chooses romantic partners and friends who will leave him emotionally, or physically, or both, yet he has no idea why this is happening. He feels cursed and can never seem to find the right partner, or the right friends.
Trauma is a state of emotional and mental distress caused by unresolved experience. Even the best parents create situations where their children experience trauma – to heal is to experience the opposite. If you break your leg, to change ‘broken’ into its opposite means to mend it.
If we feel demeaned, to heal is to feel valued. If we are traumatised by dogs, to heal is to form a different association with dogs so that instead of feeling negative towards them, we feel positive. If we are lonely, to heal is to achieve togetherness. If we feel powerless, to heal is to feel empowered.
Psychologically, we cannot move forward without healing. We must experience the opposite of whatever it was that caused our distress – this is what resolve fundamentally is – but we go about getting it in very unconscious ways. We become attracted to people exactly like the parent(s) through whom we experienced trauma, and gravitate towards experiences that are clones of our original distress.
We then attempt to create the resolve we never received, but within the context of that new relationship or situation. In our subconscious minds, we think if we can enjoy the opposite (healing) experience with someone exactly like our mum or dad, we have resolved the original issue.
For example, the man in our previous scenario continues to gravitate towards unavailable women. He believes if he can make a potential romantic interest of this ilk love him enough to drop the other things she is focused on and prioritise him, he has resolved the wound of feeling abandoned by his mother, who suddenly made work more important than him.
EAT, SLEEP, CARBON COPY, REPEAT
But when we are attracted to people who are exactly like the person who traumatised us in the first place, and when we gravitate towards circumstances that are a repeat of the previous unpleasant situation, chances are that instead of experiencing healing, we will simply be re-traumatised. For example, it is much more likely that if the man from our previous scenario finds himself in a relationship with a woman who is unavailable because she prioritises career over him, she will not suddenly decide to drop her career for him.
Instead, she is likely to continue to be unavailable and will eventually decide to end the relationship for the sake of her career. This won’t start healing his original wounding, it will only compound it, re-traumatise him and reinforce the belief that originated because of that initial event, manifesting in thoughts like “no one will love me enough to really be with me”, “I’m all alone in this world” or “women are all so self-centred”.
When it seems like you can never find Mr or Mrs Right, it can begin to feel like you are cursed. But it isn’t actually a curse you are suffering from: it is a lack of awareness you have about what deep and often subconscious traumas you are trying to resolve. These are the same subconscious strategies you are using to try to resolve those relationships by gravitating towards certain people and experiences.
We can use the pain of adult relationships, especially painful themes that keep occurring from relationship to relationship, to discover these traumas. By doing so, we then become aware of what conditions we need in order to begin to heal, and what opposite experience we are, in fact, looking for. Gravitating towards similar people and scenarios expecting a different outcome is like going shopping for milk at a hardware store – put simply, it’s not going to work out for us.
The day our relationships feel good, and the moment we find Mr/Mrs Right, is the exact time we recognise the people and circumstances which are the opposite of those which caused us distress in the first place – therein, we will actually find the resolve we seek.
The Anatomy Of Loneliness by Teal Swan is out on 1 November (Watkins Publishing, £12.99)