Thought Catalog

Did You Inherit Being Bad At Relationships?

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I spent a lot of my life chasing women who would never let me catch them. And the ones who wanted to catch me? Wasn’t interested. There was no…. challenge.

As I woke up to the realities of my patterns I began to see the same stories playing out in all of the relationships around me. The same frustration that incessantly coursed through my veins was running rampant and infecting the masses.

Wait, was there a plague that caused the love of the unavailable?!

And who were these unavailable people? Why did they seem to never care as much as I did? Why did I feel like I was loving all out and they were just chilled out, not at all concerned about what was going on between us, drinking Mai Tais by the pool, never afraid to lose anyone? And, on top of that, why did I feel like I was taking crazy pills and they seemed liked they could give two shits?

Well, if you’re like I was, don’t worry, you’re not crazy, but your emotional brain is. The good news is I’m about to make all of your irrational behaviour make sense AND give you some actionable tips on how to actually choose relationships where we choose each other.

Wait… those exist?!

In relationships we generally take one of two roles… The Pursuer and the Runner. To put it more simply, we’ll either be the one always running after and chasing love (pursuer), or we’ll be the one always fleeing from it and feeling controlled and smothered by love (runner). So you may be reading this thinking, “no way, I’ve been both”. And while you are likely right, you will be one more than the other the majority of the time… and I would put money on the fact that you became the other when you got really hurt. (I went from pursuer to runner… smooth move. This comes from the belief that love hurt us so we just won’t entertain love anymore).

“So what does this mean about me if I’m the pursuer?”

Here’s the deal, the pursuer is often someone who’s greatest fear is being left. Ironically, the very behaviours we choose when we’re a pursuer; being clingy, needy, jealous and feeling desperately fearful, are the very things that make our greatest fear (being left) realized. Add to that the fact that we tend to pick people who never really want to be caught, makes this painful reality a regular. We live in a state of fear, and we often see love and anxiety as being synonymous. That’s why when someone truly wants to love and choose us, we can often not feel excited. We mistake the safety of a secure partner with a lack of connection and there’s no spark. Know that we can change this though. Once we reduce the anxiety and live in a space of security, we begin to choose partners from a place of authentic connection, and not just because we’re repeating patterns.

So where does this behaviour begin? Because why would anyone want to be in a relationship like this?! Welllll… let’s get in a time machine and go back to childhood.

Pursuers usually have a parent (caregiver) who wasn’t around. Maybe that person worked a lot. Maybe they left. Maybe they were an alcoholic. Maybe we never knew them. Maybe we had a great childhood yet we just didn’t feel acknowledged. Maybe we werein a large family and didn’t feel noticed or heard. Maybe we felt like we weren’t told enough that we were loved and shown general affection.

Having this experience as a child usually has us believing that we were never enough. That no matter how much we achieve or how much drama and trouble we cause, we will never be noticed and loved for who we truly are. Pursuers tend to act out and/or be high achievers. Pursuers are often in a constant state of anxiety because they’ve always been waiting to be chosen. They’ve been waiting to receive the love and affirmation they never got as a child. Stay tuned for the way out of this perceived insanity. (Hint: We’ll never fully choose someone who loves us for who we are till we do. We must model the love we seek.)

Runners:

Ohhhhhhh runners. Why can’t we just find someone we want to be with? Why does love scare us so much? Why does everyone get so crazy and smothering in relationships? People are so needy right?!

The runner is usually afraid of intimacy. It’s what love brings that scares the crap out of them. The runner usually has a parent (caregiver) who was controlling and all over them. They maybe grew up in a very religious and/or culturally restrictive environment. Maybe they were not rewarded for self-expression. Maybe their parents got divorced and they saw the devastation that relationship can bring. Maybe one parent abused the other (or both). Maybe they were abused by the people who were supposed to love them. Maybe they’ve had their heart broken by a romantic partner. Maybe they were bullied or picked on.

No matter the reason, runners are often afraid of what comes along with loving people and letting them in. Runners are afraid of being caught, because being caught means being loved, and their association with love is likely hurt, trauma, heartbreak, and even the loss of themselves and their own identity.


Ok, so we’ve roughly broken down where these behaviours begin and how they often manifest, but now that we know that, how the eff do we change these patterns? How do we stop running after and running from love? Why the hell does our emotional brain do such crazy things?!? Gawwwwwd. Someone pass me a tequila shot.

I’m going to get real serious on you here. Our fear of being excluded from groups, tribes, communities, and most importantly, relationships, is so great that we become who we need to be to be loved. We become a identity which we create so that we get to maintain our inclusion in the group. In that moment when we begin to become an “actor” and wear a mask, we separate from ourselves…. Woahhhhh, right? That’s some deep sh*t right there. We’re not born this way… we’re born with an open heart and a soul that longs to express who we are at our core.

So when do we begin this formation of a false identity?!

Well, the very people who welcome us into this world we’re taught that they had to become something else to be loved. So, just like we hand down our DNA which provides our hair and eye colour, we are also handed down the emotional wounds of our parents. So, our parents usually impart onto us the same cultural and religious expectations which were imparted onto them. They pass down the same emotional wounds their parents gave them.

It’s only fair right?!? “You need to change and become this perfect ideal like I had to, otherwise it makes my choices not make sense. You need to give up you and abandon your heart, because I had to. That’s just how life is.” (Don’t be mad at them, they were/are doing the best they can with what they have/know.)

This is why in arguments and relational experiences, we will only ever be able to go as deep as our parents (caregivers) have gone. Because they can only teach us what they know. All of this is proven untrue if our parents have done the work and healed their pasts. If they’ve broken free of the mold and blazed a trail of truth.

The good thing is that, even if our parents haven’t transformed themselves, we can. We can learn how to go deeper. We can learn why we do what we do and heal our childhood experience. We can look at the ways in which we changed who we are, our self expression, and what parts we let the world see, and what parts we have hidden in order to be loved. We can learn.

The way out is simple, but it requires courage:

  1. Accept who you are currently being: If we can take ownership for how we’re currently showing up to love, we can make different choices, because we can’t change where we’re going if we don’t consciously know and accept where we are.
  2. Begin to lean into the uncomfortable. Patterns change by changing them. There is no escape from this truth. So, embrace your power to change your life and how you love. For pursuers it means giving love room to breath and asking for what we need from relationships. Feel unsafe and like the relationship isn’t secure? Ask for what is required in order to calm your anxiety. For runners it’s about slowing down. It’s about letting yourself get caught. It’s about communicating the fears you have and asking for the space you need to breath… and then returning once your partner gives you that space.
  3. Let love in. Decide to finally let love in, and by doing that we not only heal ourselves, we also invite those around us to heal as well. We go deeper. We see that love is meant to feel free.

Pursuer or runner, we’re both afraid of the same thing: receiving the love we so desperately crave, we’re just going about protecting ourselves from being hurt in different ways. At the baseline of these relationship patterns is always fear. When we acknowledge and communicate these fears, we begin to dissolve them. The walls between us and other lower and we slowly (or quickly) begin to form the belief that we are lovable and worthy of a great partnership. We change the stories we were taught. And our external and internal world mirror our truth. We finally get to see and be seen.

So, I ask you to turn within. If you don’t do the work, no one will. And you will always hit the same emotional limit with every partner you choose. Different name, same patterns. If we’re willing to look, we’ll see that our partners are our path to healing, we just need to choose one who’s willing to heal with us. TC mark

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