Why you keep making the same mistakes in dating
Have you found yourself repeating the same dating and relationship patterns but each time it just happens to be with a different person?
Our attachment style can say a lot about who we love and why. It can explain why history seems to repeat itself. My invitation as you read this blog is to notice your own style, but, and here’s the thing, it isn’t to label or diagnose, because you can consciously change these patterns at any moment you choose to. This blog is to simply bring awareness to your patterns so that you can choose to behave differently.
What is our attachment style?
Our attachment style is a reflection of how we experienced love as a child. Most people working with attachment theory talk about four different ones; secure attachment, anxious attachment, avoidant attachment and disorganised attachment.
I’m going to break each one down into what likely happened in your childhood and how you experience that style now as an adult.
When you were a child your caregivers placed boundaries, they met your emotional needs and created an environment which was predictable and felt safe. As an adult you very likely have healthy relationships with people where you are able to communicate boundaries effectively, feel comfortable and confident in dating and meeting new people and have a sense of safety in yourself when you date. You understand that love can sometimes take time to grow and like to create intimacy while still feeling independent.
As a child it’s likely that your caregivers were emotionally unavailable and insensitive to your needs and requests for connection. It’s possible that your caregivers were intrusive in their presence but emotionally distant. As a result you learnt to disconnect from your caregiver as a coping mechanism. In your relationships you tend to over value your own time, space and independence. You very rarely, if ever ask for help – you feel you just don’t need it. Intimacy is something which feels extremely uncomfortable to you. You are less likely to seek support or therapy because there is ‘nothing wrong’.
The inconsistent displays of connection from your caregivers left you wondering as a child when your needs were going to be met. Love felt unpredictable and as a child you were constantly looking to understand if you were going to get your emotional needs met or not. As an adult this translates to lack of boundaries and people-pleasing to get the love and attention of your love interest. It can mean looking for partners who are not clear on what they want. It also means that if anyone shows you lots of love and interest, you will most likely not fancy them because it doesn’t feel like the push and pull of love that you are used to.
Growing up your caregivers would frequently give you conflicting information about their expectations. Caregivers put you in ‘no-win’ situations whereby you would be asked to do something, heavily criticised for it, you would then do it as they asked you to only to be further criticised and punished for not doing it correctly. It leaves your nervous system in a sense of fear because you are unable to understand the parameters or ‘rules’ of any situation and constantly second-guessing yourself. What this can mean as an adult that you simultaneously seek out intimacy and the need to have it while also holding onto a fear of it which results in a back and forth and an uncertainty in how you feel.
How is this relevant to dating?
The reason it’s important to understand our style is because what we do is unconsciously go and search out to repeat the behaviours and environments that we lived in as children. It’s what our nervous system has understood to be love. When we experience the emotional and physical sensations that remind us of our childhoods, it tells our nervous system – this is love. What that can mean is that often, when we experience a rush of chemistry, a sense of excitement, it is a trigger of our attachment style. So we go into an automatic way of understanding the person, interpreting their behaviour and responding to their behaviour.
- To begin to change these patterns, it’s important to explore how we feel about ourselves in interactions with other people. Some questions to explore around dating to determine if your dating patterns are healthy.
- Do I feel safe with the other person?
- Is the other person pushing my boundaries and not respecting my ‘no’?
- When someone is communicating emotions do I panic and want to escape?
- Am I adapting my personality, likes and dislikes to fit in?
- Do I experience an overwhelming sense of rejection if someone isn’t interested and I reach out for more information, try to convince them to take me back or that I will change?
- Am I pushing people away and running for more space?
- If I need to have a conversation with the other person about my own boundaries, in a bid to avoid conflict do I just avoid the other person?
- What am I making our conversations and interactions mean about me as person and my own value?
- Do I fear that the other person will not be interested in me if I am not my authentic self?
- Do I find myself constantly wanting more time to myself and not wanting to fully commit to anyone and to keep things casual?
- If they don’t reply immediately to my messages do I go into my head about what they might be thinking or what this means?
- Am I communicating authentically my desires and wants from a place of respect for myself or instead projecting onto the other person on ‘what they should be doing’ or ‘how they are failing me’?
Once you start noticing the answers to these questions, what you can do is begin the journey to self-love, intimacy and healthy communication. Bringing our awareness to our patterns is the first step in changing them. Changing them is the next step to finding love as a place of safety.
I’m a certified and trauma-informed Sex, Love & Relationship Coach. I work 1-1 with men and women to uncover unhealthy dating patterns and support them in embodying a new narrative so they can find the partner that lights them up.
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