It’s not uncommon to stay with someone you’re not excited about — or who you actually dislike — but you don’t do anything about it because frankly, you don’t think it’ll be any better with anyone else.
- You think the problem is you, so it doesn’t matter who you’re with because you’ll just keep attracting the same type of person who treats you poorly.
- You believe that relationships just get dull after the honeymoon period, and you really can’t expect to feel passionate, to desire your partner, so why bother trying a different relationship when the sex is going to eventually get boring or infrequent in that one too?
- You’re simply afraid of the unknown. The person you’re with, for better or for worse, has accommodated you into their life, and who’s to say that if you ventured into new territory as a single person anyone will ever want you?
- The relationship offers familiarity and a shared social life, which you don’t want to give up. Ending it will be disruptive, and the disruption does not stop at your front door. It impacts your friends and family, your routine.
What if this is the best that you can do?
(If you are staying because you are being physically or emotionally abused and are afraid of leaving, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.)
A Failure of Imagination
Truth is, you just don’t know what the future holds. And it’s scary to find out. It’s a big risk to leave a relationship: the outcome could be that you just end up alone, which right now feels worse than being with someone you don’t dig all that much anymore.
As I mentioned above, you may fear that you’ll just keep attracting the same type of person. You feel like the universe keeps sending you variations on the same theme, or you wonder what’s wrong with you that you’re only turned on by people who treat you like garbage. There may be some validity to this observation, but that’s only if you haven’t changed. In psychology, there’s a term called “repetition compulsion” which refers to the pattern of continually trying to work out your old shit with people who treat you the same way your parents did. An oversimplification, yes. But life feels like it has order if you can find people who keep reinforcing your core belief system (“I don’t deserve love”). Essentially, you’re looking for these folks because you don’t believe anything else is possible.
Psychotherapy can help you identify these patterns, by exploring what you’re unconsciously playing out over and over again from your past, and learning effective ways to challenge your core belief systems so that you can break the cycle of being drawn to people who don’t mirror your best self.
Learning to Be Uncomfortable…
…With Someone Who Treats You Better Than You Think You Deserve
Maybe, just maybe, you meet someone who doesn’t treat you like you’re used to. They see the best of you. More than likely, you’ll want to reject them, because you just don’t believe they could love the real you. You use all manner of self- or relationship-sabotage techniques to destroy the relationship, a relationship that could actually be good for you if you let the person in, and allow yourself to be supremely uncomfortable.
Supremely uncomfortable. It means recognizing that you want to reject some kindness your new partner offers you, and instead of pushing them away, you just allow it to be. Think of it like an unwrapped gift that they put on the table. You don’t have to touch it, but you can just leave it on the table. You don’t swipe it off, you don’t leave your chair. You say, “thank you,” and just observe the gift. Even if you don’t think you deserve it, you’re not rejecting it, you’re allowing it within your field, and doing all you can to not criticize the person. If you believe they wasted their time and money giving such a nice gift to someone who isn’t worthy, you simply notice that is a thought, not reality.
You may even buy into the radical assumption that maybe this new person actually sees something about you that you’re not able to see in yourself, some diamond that you haven’t allowed to shine because you feel like a lump of coal. Over time, if you just consciously choose not to reject the good things coming into your life, maybe eventually you’ll take them in, absorb them, believe in the deepest part of your being that the wonderful things your partner says about you are true.
… With Yourself
Or you may choose to just be alone for a while. Take a break from dating. Maybe you stayed too long in your relationship because you were afraid of being lonely, or terrified of being on your own. You just didn’t want to give up the benefits of being with someone: mutual friends, having someone to binge-watch Netflix or go to parties with. You’d have to take care of yourself: change the lightbulb or get the stains out of your pants, soothe yourself when you are feeling upset. Be willing to undergo the terrifying journey of figuring out what you really want, not what you trained yourself to want because it suited your partner, because you were afraid that if you did what you desire, you’d be rejected.
When you’re alone, you become acutely aware of all the ways you used your ex to avoid looking at your own deficiencies, your tendency to not take responsibility for growing up in certain areas of your life. This is your time to become more self-sufficient. Of course, there’s no expectation that you change your car’s oil and mend your jeans and create formulas in Excel. But you can probably find something that you can do that you just didn’t because it was easier to have your ex do it for you.
There are aspects of you that are under-developed, and you can now face them squarely. Once you’re in a new relationship, you’ll be attracted to a new person not for what they can do for you, but how they make you feel more yourself. You’re not seeking a perfect partner, just someone who fits you better.
Whether you make a vow to be single for a while or you start a relationship before you thought you were even ready for it, you may come up against obstacles to allowing love into your life or being alone without regressing into unwanted behaviors. Now is the time to challenge your core beliefs about you who are and what you deserve, so that you can take the risk to attract people who truly bring joy into your life.