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Stop Me Before I Love Again


Do you fall in love with the same person over and over again? The name may change, but when the honeymoon ends you find yourself in the same old rut with the same problems you had before. Even if you have a PhD and tell yourself that you know better, there you go again. You can learn from your past if you are willing to look below the surface.

After spending time in therapy as well as participating in a twelve-step group for codependents, Christa divorced her deadbeat, addicted husband Ted, who had also been unfaithful to her, only to take up with Andre, another man who was an unemployed compulsive overeater. She maintained that Andre was not at all like her ex, although all her friends tried to make her see how similar the two were. She and Andre set up housekeeping together, and after a while she discovered that he wasn’t looking for work very hard and he too was being unfaithful.

Since Christa understood that she acted codependent, she knew that she tended to find men who needed healing. She enjoyed feeling wanted and needed and thought of herself as a helper, someone who fixed birds with broken wings so they could fly again. The trouble was that the birds she chose rarely flew. They mainly continued to limp through life.

When Christa decided to break the pattern of unhappy love affairs, I asked her to perform an experiment. I suggested that she continue to socialize and go to places where she might meet eligible single men. I told her to look around the next time she was at a gathering and notice which man she would feel comfortable initiating a conversation with. I also instructed her to look for the man she was most intimidated by, someone she would hesitate to approach.

The next step was for Christa to engage each man in a conversation and see what she discovered. She had no trouble communicating with the man she felt attracted to. The talk flowed easily, and after a while the potential date told Christa how impressed he was with her and how much he could learn from her. He was interested in taking her out.

At first Christa felt flattered, but then she realized that he was another bird with a broken wing, and she had risen to the bait and turned on her helper personality full force. However, even with this awareness that she was “doing it again,” she gave him her phone number.

The second candidate was a good-looking man who gave off an aura of confidence. Christa was nervous as she approached him and felt awkward talking to him. He wasn’t very interested in her and quickly found a reason to move away to talk to someone else. She felt embarrassed and rejected.

When we discussed the outcome of her experiment, Christa realized that the reason she was uncomfortable speaking with the second man was because he appeared very confident. He didn’t need fixing, and he wasn’t attracted to someone like her who liked to fix people. Although Christa had accepted a date from the first man, she knew that if she went out with him she would just be repeating the situation with Ted and Andre. She would take care of men, but they wouldn’t take care of her needs, except her need to be needed.

She broke the date and vowed that whenever she met a man like Ted she would run the other way. From then on, Christa was able to recognize the Teds that came her way in less than ten minutes. Although at first she felt at ease with them, she rapidly recognized their neediness, walked away and congratulated herself on now being immune to the charms of Teds and Andres.

With additional counseling, she was also able to change her perception of herself from being someone who attracted only needy losers to a confident and capable woman who attracted men who were also capable and confident. If you are ready to break your pattern of unhappy over and over relationships, perform the same experiment and see what you find out about yourself.

gloria arenson, mft, treats stress, anxiety, trauma, phobias, and compulsions. she has authored how to stop playing the weighting game, a substance called food, born to spend, five simple steps to emotional healing, freedom at your fingertips and procrastination nation.

http://www.gloriaarenson.com

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Listed: December 29, 2008 12:08 pm