How Therapy Can Help Prevent Future Unhappy Relationships

couple in a bad relationshipMany women base their self-worth on whether or not they have a romantic partner. This is a distorted way of thinking and can cause their self-esteem to fluctuate depending upon the stability of their relationship or whether or not they have one.

Women who think in this manner may have had a poor relationship with their father or no relationship with their father. Dad may have abandoned the family, or been too busy working to cultivate a healthy relationship with his children. Dad may have been abusive.

Children need answers just like adults do, but do not have the experience/wisdom to draw correct conclusions. Hence, many little girls with the aforementioned fathers conclude that their father’s absence or abusive/neglectful behavior is a result of their own defectiveness. They surmise that they deserve to experience abuse/be ignored rather than understand the truth, which is that their fathers were limited in their ability to healthily parent them.

When a father abandons his family, he is the defective one. Perhaps the father’s father abandoned him as well, or maybe the father was too self-centered to provide loving attention to his children. These neglected daughters often develop a chronic pattern in which they choose men who are abusive, neglectful, and rejecting, thus reenacting their dysfunctional relationship with their Dad.

Many women marvel about the odds of continuing to choose hurtful men, but there is no coincidence here. They are unconsciously selecting men who will disappoint and ultimately reject them. It feels familiar to them and human beings are creatures of habit.

The good news is that this unhealthy pattern of choosing unworthy men can be changed. The first step towards change is recognizing the unhealthy pattern and gaining insight with the therapist’s help into how it came to be.

The woman will need to forgive rather than chastise herself for her history of choosing abusive/unworthy men. She will learn that she did the best she could based on her family of origin dynamics. The therapist will educate the woman on the aspects of a healthy relationship which include mutual respect, trust, and the important concept of reciprocity.

The therapist will encourage the woman to look at her maladaptive relational style, which can also be changed. The woman may be a people-pleaser and/or “giver” who surrounds herself with “takers.” She may have little experience in being on the receiving end of a relationship.

The woman will learn that she has a right to have needs and to get those needs met in a relationship. She will be taught to look for “red flag” behaviors in a prospective partner i.e. potentially unhealthy/abusive actions. She will learn to set boundaries with others, and decide against continuing relationships with those who do not respect these boundaries.

She will learn that it’s not just OK, but healthy, to let prospective partners go who do not demonstrate a willingness to bring healthy relationship aspects to the table. She will acknowledge that her self-sabotaging relational style did not develop overnight, and therefore will accept and be patient with the pace in which she progresses towards a healthier relational style that will afford her satisfying future relationships.

Therapy can be supportive and validating as a woman begins to work through and discard her maladaptive relationship patterns. She will feel a sense of empowerment as she watches herself slowly emerge into the woman she was always meant to be: vital, confident, and loving toward herself as well as others. This healthy self-concept is the payoff of her work done in therapy, as well as a future with romantic partners who are deserving of her.

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kristy Fox-Berman, LCSW, therapist in Branchburg, New Jersey

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • rachel g

    rachel g

    December 18th, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    This is a great point because I think that most women wouldn’t think of getting therapy until something goes wrong, but this is a way to do something right ahead of time. We have all made mistakes in the past but wouldn’t it be great to know that the next time we are heading into a relationship that we are confident and strong and not destined to make the same old mistakes again and again?

  • Mona

    Mona

    December 19th, 2013 at 3:34 AM

    If these girls had been thru as many unhappy relationships in their lives as I had they would jump at the chance to work with someone to help them sort out all of those issues before resigning themselves to getting hurt again.
    I didn’t ever think about this, just thought that I had a knack for always picking the wrong man and not realizing that a large part of that is probably because of how my parents were and seeing my mom go thru the same patterns in her own life.
    That’s something that I see now, but hindsight is always 20/20, far easier to see the causes of those mistakes now from a distance than I ever could when actually going thru it.

  • jacqueline

    jacqueline

    December 20th, 2013 at 3:42 AM

    The very first step, and the most important one, is getting yourself there. And I don’t just mean to the therapists office. I mean you have to get yourself there emotionally and be clear headed enough to see that you need some help in this area. It may not help you immediately or overnight, but you didn’t become that damaged overnight either. This healing takes time, but so worth it to invest that kind of time and energy into yourself to become a stronger person in the end.

  • Molly a

    Molly a

    December 23rd, 2013 at 3:51 AM

    even when we likely know that much of what is happening to us in our relationships probably isn’t all our fault there is still this little voice in there telling you that you are not good enough to deserve anything any better in life

    therapy could definitely help with that and it isn’t all that it will just help you be better for the next relationship that comes along but it will help to make you stronger… period.

    and that’s what we want, to be stronger on our own and not be dependent on someone else to do that for us or to make us that way

  • Karen Fazekas

    Karen Fazekas

    December 23rd, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    Great article Kristy!

    Relationships can be confounding and challenging even when you do have the tools, emotional courage and resources to change past behaviours. Stubbornly entrenched behaviors take a kind of vigilance to change. Sometimes quickly, but more often slowly, we begin. It can happen in fits and starts and even go backwards for a bit. It helps so much to have a good therapist to start, and then good friends and support to continue.

    I imagine my old unhealthy behaviours as railroad tracks that were laid down in my childhood. The effort required to rip them up from the ground and then relay them can appear to be overwhelming … God’s help and the help of others treading the same road is indispensable.

  • chrys

    chrys

    December 24th, 2013 at 3:16 AM

    I am certainly an advocate for growing and becoming strong, but not so that I can have a healthy relationship with someone else, although that will happen, but it is because I want to be healthy period and feel good about me. It isn’t always just about being able to have someothing with someone else, because you are never going to be a success in that unless you are happy with your own life. I strongly feel that going to theraot can make a huge difference in your life in a very positive way but it has to be for the right reasons. That reason needs to be so that you can come to love yourself not because you are still just seeking that love from someone else.

  • Rose f

    Rose f

    December 26th, 2013 at 5:54 AM

    Why is it that typically the men are the ones leaving and the women are the ones left to feel ashamed and like trash?

  • Jim

    Jim

    December 30th, 2013 at 4:14 AM

    Rose f: there are planty of women who leave too but they aren’t the ones who get all the bad press. It’s the men who will inevitably get the nrunt of blame when it comes to ending relationships. Women make just as many of the same mistakes that men do but I guess that in most cases they come off as far more sympathetic than men do. And I can see that, we have a long history of bad behavior to contend with. Just try not to judge multiple books by one cover, that’s all I ask.

  • I'm suffering of this mentally and phycologycal abuse from Man I've been in relationship

    I'm suffering of this mentally and phycologycal abuse from Man I've been in relationship

    March 1st, 2014 at 1:58 AM

    After going through so much stress the lost of job and a break up the almost destroy me an make me lose my dignity … its hard to understanding why man can be so evil and manipulate others when they know there girlfriend is in love with them this person its in need of help and therapy… I will overcome this.. GOD protect me from evil Amen

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