Why does this always happen to me? Relationship Counselling

“Why do I always attract the wrong person?” This question is often asked by people who seek counselling support for relationship difficulties, as patterns seem to be repeated time and time again. The question can also work the other way around: “Why am I attracted to the wrong sort of person?”

In both cases, the person asking the question is aware that things are not the way that they would like them to be. Often this may be a hunch uttered in moments of despair; nevertheless, it implies a certain level of dissatisfaction and readiness to contemplate change, which is important for counselling or psychotherapy to work and help make a positive difference. 

In relationships we all often replay patterns we observed and experienced during our formative years (be they of an intimate, casual or work nature), at home or with other significant people in our lives. We all have our own examples. Here is one of the many possible scenarios to highlight the point;

If you were told from an early age that speaking your mind and showing disagreement is the same as being ‘argumentative', 'aggressive' or 'selfish’, and you consequently adopted a more passive stance in order to ‘preserve the peace’ (or keep yourself safe), then you may continue this approach at different times in your life. It may have become an integral part of your default relational pattern. In doing so, you may get used to your views not being asked for or considered, and you may even deny your views or needs to others and yourself since the realisation of effectively being left out or overlooked can be painful and isolating. In some people this can lead to a (frequently unconscious) build up of frustration and passive or active anger, and eat away - understandably so - at one’s self-esteem and self-worth. 

In this scenario you may be drawn to ‘the wrong’ people, whose own relationship style fits in with this familiar pattern; for example, people who are less inclined to listen to others or do not encourage a level playing field in a relationship of mutual worth, where respect has to be earned. Why? Because over the years you may have lost self confidence and started to believe that another type of individual could not possibly be interested in you. Indeed, people who are less domineering in their relationship style may be seen as threatening or unobtainable.

I should stress that a lot of this can often unfold unconsciously when we seek out relationships, and I am generalising to some extent to help make a point. However, clearly we may opt more often for the familiar than the unknown. This can also be likened to the ‘better the devil you know’ approach where we know the rules, the dos and don’ts, and for that we may sacrifice some personal freedom. But, as you can imagine, this does not necessarily make for a fulfilling and satisfying relationship. Indeed, it can take a lot of emotional energy to sustain such one-sidedness, which in the extreme can lead to domestic violence (experienced by both women and men in bi-, heterosexual or same sex relationships), with emotional, physical, financial or other abuse.

Therefore, the person asking themselves ‘why’ is asking a very fundamental question, which counselling or psychotherapy can help explore further. In a safe and non-judgmental environment, which has clear professional boundaries, clients can often for the first time allow themselves to travel back in time to start understanding the patterns of their own relational histories, and how this may have shaped their past and present lives. Clients may comment that these insights help them to start looking at themselves with some degree of compassion instead of inwardly-turned contempt and anger. Based on these insights clients may develop a greater sense of what they need and want from a friendship or relationship - that they deserve better.

Not everyone goes ahead to make significant changes in their lives or relationships straight away. This can be a gradual process, depending on whether the person is ready for change and how by much. The counselling process (also called therapeutic relationship) is there to encourage clients to make their own informed choices, without the therapist having an agenda. Skilled listening and probing, continuity, dependability and predictability of a regular session setting can be very effective in assisting clients to develop insights into their own lives and make the choices that they themselves are ultimately responsible for.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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