Many unsatisfying relationships are characterized by consciously thinking you deserve better while unconsciously believing you can’t do any better.
You’re resentful at your partner but won’t leave. You want to leave, but you don’t. Maybe you threaten to leave. Often. Perhaps you actually do leave. But then you get back together when you decide that being alone is much worse than the mutual agreement to tolerate each other’s emotional ineptitude in exchange for intermittent comfort and pleasure.
Or you go recreate the same exact situation with someone else, buffered only by the hormone honeymoon of delusional dating or trauma bonding.
It’s a tale as old as time, my friends.
So what in the actual fuck is going on here? Why are so many people trapped in this same old holding pattern? You would think that humanity would’ve figured this one out by now and put it in school curricula everywhere under a unit of study called “The Most Important Shit You Will Ever Learn.”
But no… you learned trigonometry instead.
The Human Condition
Everyone on earth has undeniable needs for connection, belonging, safety, security, purpose, wellbeing, etc. We work at getting these needs met literally from birth until death. Daily.
Another common thread for humanity is fear. Fear of not being good enough, being unlovable, not getting our needs met, being hurt or rejected, etc. We work equally as hard at protecting ourselves from these fears.
It’s connection versus protection. And we must find a healthy balance between the two in order to have truly satisfying relationships.
People with an anxious attachment style, love addicts, clingers, or codependents are generally people who value connection over protection.
Individuals with an avoidant attachment style, love avoidants, swingers, workaholics, or emotionally unavailable people are often those who value protection over connection.
Securely attached, healthy relationships are between people learning to connect and protect in balanced, functional, adult ways.
It’s at once quite simple and the most complicated thing you’ll ever deal with.
So why is our connection-protection thermostat set to “dysfunctional?” Well, part of it could certainly be generational trauma. If your whole family tree is a veritable shit-show of debauchery and corruption, you won’t pop out of the womb with a clean slate. That’s not how it works.
Besides old family trauma, you may also experience new family trauma as a child and adapt accordingly with various coping mechanisms and survival tactics. Abandonment, abuse, neglect, enmeshment — many flavors of dysfunction in various degrees of severity run rampant in households around the world. It’s all part of the human experience, to be honest.
But these influences of nature and nurture (or lack thereof) have an immeasurable impact on how we show up in the world. They affect how we see ourselves, how we see others, and the things we think, say, and do. They even affect our physical health throughout the duration of our entire lives (see ACE study).
And, obviously, they have a huge impact on our capacity for vulnerability and intimacy.
Heal Yourself, Heal Your Relationships
If you are emotionally immature, wounded, or some kind of dysfunctional, you will likely feel trapped in relationships. But you’re not trapped with the other person — you’re trapped with yourself. That’s why you stick around. Deep down inside, you know that they aren’t the problem. You just can’t admit it.
The bad news and the good news is that you are both the problem and the solution.
When people say, “I need to find a better partner,” they are, of course, assuming they can do such a thing, which is false for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if they had the necessary skill set to be in a happy relationship, they wouldn’t be in a shitty one to begin with. Secondly, there’s no such thing as a better partner — only a better partnership. Meaning, your relationship is only as good as what you bring to it.
Until you heal yourself, you will only have access to awful relationships. You’ll say stuff like, “All the good ones are taken,” “I missed my chance,” “The dating scene is trash,” and other things like this. Nonsense. There’s basically infinity people to choose from. You just have no access to the “good ones” because you don’t know what to do about your rancid emotional baggage.
Start Your Journey
The journey of healing and becoming whole rests squarely on your shoulders. You don’t have to know all the answers, but you do have to ask all the questions. You’re in charge of doing the therapy, hiring the coach, reading the books, joining the support groups, or whatever. No one is coming to save you. You are the person you’ve been waiting for all this time.
You can stop waiting now.