Please note: This article does NOT apply in cases of violence or abuse. There can be nothing “right” about such a relationship.
Feels so bad it’s good
He doesn’t usually call when he says he will.
He’s not great at expressing affection – especially in public.
He doesn’t seem all that interested in introducing you to his friends.
You can’t get him out of your mind. He’s catnip!
Why does it sometimes feel so right to be with Mr. Wrong?
If his behavior is driving you nuts, and that pattern doesn’t change and it doesn’t lead to a breakup, it must be because – are you ready? – his indifference and/or lack of communication and/or infidelity is basically okay with you. Sure, it hurts like heck and no, of course you don’t deserve to be treated that way! But on some level it must be okay with you, or you wouldn’t stick around for it.
You are not in any way responsible for his behavior. Nor do you deserve to be treated poorly. You are not to blame for how you’re treated. You are, however, responsible for understanding how and why his bad behavior is allowed to continue. There’s usually more to it than “because I love him” can convey.
Low Self-Esteem, Low Expectations
For better or worse, we’re most comfortable when our partner’s attitude toward us matches our own attitude toward ourselves. In other words, we’re drawn to people who treat us the way we secretly believe we deserve to be treated. So if you’re putting up with behavior you don’t like, ask yourself whether it’s because on some level, it feels right. Not good, mind you, but right.
Have you ever been in the shower when the water suddenly turned cold? Didn’t you jump out of the way to avoid the sudden chill? You weren’t expecting or wanting a cold shower; you wanted a nice, warm, comfortable shower. Your expectations were upset when the temperature dropped, and you extracted yourself until the water felt right again.
Even though you dread being hurt in your relationship, is it what you’ve come to expect?
When you were a kid, how often did you feel criticized, rejected or neglected? To the extent that you felt those things, they will feel normal to you. That doesn’t mean they’re easy to take; they didn’t feel good then, and they don’t feel good now. What they are, maybe, is familiar.
We all find comfort in familiar patterns, even when they leave us chilled to the bone.
If only he’d change!
What would it be like to be with someone who always called when he said he would? If he were reliable, affectionate and committed to your relationship, would you still belong together? Or is it possible that if he really did change, he wouldn’t feel like the right partner for you anymore?
Think about this: What would be required of you if he were different?
If you’re with Mr. Wrong and can’t seem to let him go, keep these pointers in mind:
1. Realize that the pain is probably deeper than this relationship
Assuming your partner’s behavior is reflecting your expectations, it’s likely that you’re working through painful feelings that originated long before you met him. Those feelings have nowhere to go but through your heart and out. Feeling is healing. Therefore…
2. Focus on your feelings, not his behavior
When we feel hurt, we often try to soothe ourselves by focusing on the situation, or other person. We think and think and think and think. This helps distract us from feeling. ‘If he would just behave differently…’ ‘If I could only make him understand …’ ‘If I knew for sure he loved me …’
But our feelings remain: we feel lonely, rejected, abandoned, miserable. How do you concentrate on your feelings rather than his behavior? Try this…
3. Express your feelings to a compassionate listener
Write down how you feel, or express it to someone who can hear your feelings without trying to solve the problem. This might mean entering therapy, where you can explore your feelings with the help of a professional.
Remember, a good therapist will concentrate on helping you understand your feelings rather than telling you what to do. Friends and family will tell you what to do – why pay for that?
By focusing on what you’re bringing to the relationship – your lowered expectations and painful feelings from long ago – you can break the cycle of hoping he’ll change, and take your own power back. When something begins to shift in you, you can be sure there will be a resulting shift in your relationship.
© Copyright 2011 by By Tina Gilbertson, MA, LPC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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.