Why are we drawn to people who reject us?

We have all heard the saying “treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen”, and everyone likes a bad boy/girl right?  But why is it, that even though we know how much it hurts, we can keep going after people who do not want us in return or who treat us badly? What keeps us waiting for that text? Or draws us back to that person who has let us down before?

It’s easy to believe that it’s just bad luck, or that all men/women are the same, but there may be other deep rooted reasons.

Love is the drug

You know that rush you get when you finally get a message from someone who you like? Well, that high can get addictive just like any other. We can get caught up in a cycle of feeling anxious or low when we are being ignored, followed by a huge rush when we become acknowledged. That intensity may be missing in other relationships and so we get ‘hooked’ in. In fact, when the brains of those ‘in love’ were scanned, it showed that the parts of the brain connected to addiction and reward lit up.

One day my prince will come . . .

Or princess! The theory here is that we are constantly looking for that happy ending that an early relationship did not have. It may be that we regret something about the way things turned out, that we got hurt, or that we didn’t get what we hoped for. Subconsciously we will search out partners and ‘re-enact’ a similar relationship, this time hoping that we can change the outcome and we can ‘un-do’ the effects of the past. Perhaps moving from one distant person to the next in the hope that this time it will be our fairytale. This is not just in the case of romantic love either, it may be that this pattern began with trying to gain the love of a parent or caregiver.

What am I worth?

Without realising that we do it, we can assign a certain worth to people. We can also judge our own value by the reaction we gain from others. This is called external validation. Once we put somebody up on a pedestal their value becomes greater and the harder it becomes to achieve their ‘acceptance’ the more it will be worth. It feels that if we could gain their ‘love,’ then we, in turn, would be worth as much as them.

Counselling can help us explore the patterns that we feel caught up in. It may not be a quick process but understanding is the first step towards change. Together with a therapist, you can look at how your past may be affecting your future and work on self-esteem. Once we build up the strength and value within ourselves, we can start moving towards happier and healthier relationships. Everyone might like a bad boy/girl, but it’s time to get the love that you deserve.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

Share this article with a friend

Written by Katie Evans BA(hons), Dip., MBACP Registered, Adv. Accreditation

Katie Evans is a qualified integrative counsellor with a full-time private practice in Central London. Originally working with loss and bereavement she then specialised in addiction and LGBT issues. She is published and has spoken at events about sex, drugs and risk taking behaviour. She also runs training workshops about chemsex and therapy.… Read more

Written by Katie Evans BA(hons), Dip., MBACP Registered, Adv. Accreditation

Show comments

Find a counsellor or psychotherapist dealing with relationship issues

All therapists are verified professionals.

Real Stories

More stories

Related Articles

More articles