Not long ago, an acquaintance of mine ended a ten year relationship. The union was toxic and unhealthy and she had been exhibiting co-dependent behaviors for some time. She took on all of the responsibility, while he contributed almost nothing emotionally and financially.  So after much thought, she decided to end it.

The break up was a long time coming, but what shocked me was that within a week, both of them were involved with other people. Infidelity was not the cause of the break up, but they were both behaving like being single was a disease and they needed a cure fast.

When she approached me to tell me she had met someone new, I asked her if that was wise. She assured me that she was ready (after one week). I gave her a wry smile and that was it.

I know her relationship patterns and knew she definitely wasn’t ready. She hadn’t taken any time to even contemplate what got her in the situation she had just left – let alone fix it.  She comes from a one parent home and her father was sparsely in her life. She learned early that he couldn’t be trusted, or counted on for anything.  He had lied to her and let her down so much over the years that this belief became fully entrenched in her. This pattern of never expecting much from men, never being able to trust them or count on them is one that she carried with her into her adult relationships.

When you are dragging years of emotional baggage behind you and you don’t even stop to unpack you run the risk of repeating the exact same behavior patterns that you always have and or contaminating your new relationship with issues from your past that you never even bothered to address or resolve.

Common Unhealthy, Repetitive Relationship Patterns

Psychologists have documented again and again that victims of childhood abuse, or neglect will often seek to repeat the abuse in adulthood. There are many different patterns and themes that tend to show up again and again. Until we change these beliefs and behaviors they are bound to continue to resurface in all our future relationships with others, because as we’ve said in previous blogs, our relationships with our primary care givers is the template for all our future relationships with others.

I’m not worthy of love:

Oprah’s friend, Iyanla Vanzant says, “Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself.  We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to us more than we think we are worth.” 

What Ms.  Vanzant is telling us, is that if we are walking around carrying the belief that I’m not good enough and I’m not worthy of love, then that’s exactly what we are going to get – more experiences that bring out those feelings in us.  Until you change these core beliefs, you can date till the cows come home, but you’re still very likely going to find yourself surrounded by the same type of people and the same type of circumstances, feeling the same type of feelings, that you’ve always felt.

I don’t feel pretty:

A lot of women tell me that their “type” of man looks a certain way, or acts a certain way and they don’t want to deviate from their type. My long-term Narcissist was beeeeeautiful. GQ material for sure, that was my type, but why was that my type? What did it say about me, that I was so hung up on and so willing to put up with all kinds of poor behavior on account of how someone looked?  The truth was that I didn’t feel attractive, so if this ubber attractive guy was with me, then that must mean that I was attractive too. I was attractive by proxy. It wasn’t until I was able to build up my own self-esteem that I was able to embrace all of my flaws and see myself as beautiful. Once you find your own light you no longer need someone else’s to shine.  When you learn to empower yourself, you stop looking to others to validate you.

I am not capable of taking care of myself:

“You’re useless. You can’t do anything right.” If these were the types of messages you got in childhood then there is a pretty good chance that you have developed a pretty big need, to have someone take care of you. You’ve created this belief that without someone taking charge and running your life, your very survival might be in jeopardy. These types of people need people – any people.   And because of their immense fear of being alone they are willing to put up with all kinds of abuse from their partners, just as long as they are not abandoned. They are also prone to jump from one relationship to the next and live in great fear of being alone.

Independence breeds freedom, choice and self-worth. Sometimes we have to be thrown out of our comfort zone and learn to stand on our own two feet to realize that we don’t need anyone else to run the show, we never needed anyone else. Being independent breeds confidence, when you learn to take care of yourself you realize that you don’t need to put up with someone else’s garbage – you’ve got choices.

I derive my worth by helping others:

Children of abusive parents learn to suppress their own needs and become very attuned to the needs of others. They learn that their needs and wants aren’t important, they live in fear of upsetting their care giver so they are forced to make their caregiver’s desires the main focus of their existence and this type of egg shell walking, continues into their adult relationships.  Individuals that grow up in this type of environment primarily fall for the abusive types, or the fixer upper partner. They make the problems of others their focus and responsibility. They derive their sense of self-worth, by how much they can help and do for another. What they fail to realize is that despite someone’s best efforts you can’t make someone change. Real and lasting change comes from within not without. So if this is your relationship pattern your time would be better spent on making changes within yourself, because the only thing you can change and control is you. Build up your self-esteem and help yourself, so that these types no longer hold any interest for you.


Sometimes being single is the best thing that you can do for yourself.  When you are single you can focus on you. You can discover what makes you happy. You can learn how to control your own happiness. You can learn to become independent. Being single and content with that, gives you choices, it gives you the freedom to say – I like that or I don’t like or need that. So before you go jumping from one relationship to the next, check behind you to see if you’re still carrying the luggage from your past. If you are pause, take a relationship break and unpack.

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