Here’s Why We Tend To Choose Difficult Partners (And How We Can Learn To Make It Work)

A couple holding hands, standing on a sidewalk. Both are wearing bracelets.
Elizabeth Tsung / Unsplash

What if I told you, that the type of partners we choose in life could be already determined for us?

Theoretically, we are free to select the kind of person we love, but without this predisposition; we might have chosen someone else. No, we aren’t being forced into a relationship; but in reality our choice is probably a lot less free than we imagined.” – The Book Of Life

I have researched this for years because it seemed that I was either turning down guys who were way too nice or I was falling “in love” with ones who were unbearable and “triggered” me based on events in my childhood. I wanted to know why I was this way, why I kept repeating the same patterns, and how I could stop them.

In my findings, I have come to the conclusion that an article I read (The Book Of Life) might be accurate in saying that “it is possible that there are some very real restrictions around who we can love and feel properly attracted to, that come from a place we very rarely think to look – our childhood.”

I do believe it’s true, that our history has an impact in determining who we fall for. It is believed that we love in our hearts and minds through holes and channels that were formed in us as a child. This causes us to look for people who remind us of the feelings of love that we knew and associated with it when we were small, even if the “love” we felt wasn’t truly in fact, love. 

The world around us is vicious and cruel. We live in a biosphere that is full of broken and damaged individuals. This simple fact may have allowed the love that we received as children to mesh with painful and negative characteristics as well as positive; therefore creating the love that we now know and thirst for.

What kind of negative feelings might we have felt as a child? Well, there are many and I’m certain we have all had at least one of them.

1. The feeling of not being good enough

2. Loving a parent that was depressed and didn’t give you the attention you needed.

3. Feeling like you had to refrain from saying certain things to a parent, to keep you from upsetting them.

4. A parent who neglects is for drugs or alcohol

These are just four examples of negative feelings or experiences we might have had in our childhoods. We may not have liked these feelings or these experiences, but when we hit adulthood and began picking out partners, we look for something that seems familiar. 

We have a tendency to set aside decent prospective partners because they don’t exhibit the traits that we associate with love. We decide that someone is too “selfish” or too “boring” or too “conceited” for us, but The Book Of Life explains that this means we decided not to choose them because they’re “Unlikely to make me suffer in the way I need to suffer, in order to feel like love is real.

Sounds crazy, right? Sure. But I have seen this in my own personal life as well as in the lives of those close to me. People want to just pop someone in the face when they see their close friends dating another person who isn’t the best person in their mind, but fail to see that sometimes we choose these people beyond our control.

Do I think we can rewire our brains to choose partners that are opposite of the love we experienced as a child? Yes. But I also believe that we can rewire ourselves to respond differently to the negative behavior of a spouse, that can ultimately make our relationships better.

The problem is that we want to respond to their negative behaviors in the same ways that we responded as children, instead of changing it. For instance, if you’re like me, maybe you have a parent or relative who yelled a lot about everything. Since we loved them our reaction to them was cowering down and immediately assuming that we were guilty of whatever they were angry about, even if we weren’t. In adulthood, we tend to respond the same way; but what should we do instead?

We can try to learn to react in a more mature manner as a rational adult. Instead of accepting their behavior by shrinking down and accepting what they are doing and making ourselves “guilty.” We could respond by talking out our side of the issue. Explaining why it’s not out fault, or asking our partners why they feel it is our fault. Yes, feelings are always valid and every single person is entitled to them, but they are not always right. This is something that I feel like I have just about overcome, but it took me 24 years to do so.

Another great example in my life would be from my mother. My mother was neglectful and never there for me. I would find myself not feeling good enough for her, and once she wasn’t in my life anymore, at the age of five or six, I felt like I wasn’t good enough for everyone. Not just in romantic relationships, but in family relationships and friend relationships as well. I craved affection and felt jealous of those who received more than I did. My mom chose drugs over me, she chose men over me, she chose herself over me, and I felt envious of all of the people and things that were placed before me. In my young mind, they all had something that I didn’t have, I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t possess a quality that they did. Luckily for me, I broke this habit before I entered into adulthood, but it haunted me for so many years and will occasionally creep up on me – and I have to push it back down and remind myself of my worth.

The goal in our relationships shouldn’t be to end a relationship just because someone has a challenge or negative behavior that we don’t like. The goal should be to learn how to deal with it by using the wisdom that we didn’t have when we when we first encountered these negative manners in our parents. We need to learn to behave in an adult-like manner when our partners are exhibiting their irrational behaviors.

“It probably isn’t in our remit to locate a wholly grown-up person. But it is always in our remit to behave in more grown-up ways around our partner’s less mature sides.” -The Book Of Life TC mark

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