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Choosing Partners Based on the Wrong Reasons

Updated: Jun 24, 2022

During your search for love, you may become frustrated as one relationship after another just doesn’t seem to work out. At this point, you’ve probably racked your brain trying to come up with some logical reason as to why this may be.

That’s most likely how you got here. You may be struggling to pinpoint a reason that makes sense to you, and you want to learn some common reasons why many people are choosing partners that are wrong for them.

Reason #1: Societal pressure

Society believes that everyone desires and should aim to have a romantic relationship. That we should rely on fate or go with our gut to find a romantic partner before we get ‘too old’.

This societal expectation and pressure to be in a relationship can be seen in many of our lives.

Dr. Meg-John Barker, a psychotherapist and specialist in gender, sexual, and relationship diversity (GSRD), explains that it is normal for people to want romantic love and prioritize this kind of love or relationship over other kinds.

The prioritization of love and the world’s belief that love is what completes people may lead to discrimination against people who don’t meet these expectations and can cause them to feel isolated and incomplete.

Acceptance of the idea that a romantic partner will complete you and that they will meet all your needs or be all you need will lead you to search for a partner that is ‘perfect’. This will not work in the long term as it will put immense pressure on your partner and cause you to go from one potential partner to the next in order to find this ‘perfect’ person.

Trying to conform to societal norms can contribute to you being unhappy when you’re not in a relationship or even staying in a relationship that is toxic or miserable for you.

The societal pressure to desire and be in a romantic relationship can influence your decisions to become more rash in order to secure a life partner and it can lead you to repeatedly get hurt because of a genuine fear of being alone, left out, or ridiculed.

To relieve some of the pressure you may be feeling from society, start by becoming aware of the pressures you feel. A study conducted by Wendy Lynn Morris for her final dissertation at the University of Virginia found that “singles who increased their awareness of potential stigmatization of singles also took steps to validate their self-worth and improve their happiness.”

Steps beyond awareness can include developing positive thinking that promotes internal assurance and a sense of self-reliance and choosing single-friendly, supportive environments that allow you to avoid negativity

Reason #2: Fear

Many people fear being single. Whether due to societal pressure or numerous other factors, people fear being alone forever.

These fears can impact your relationships negatively in multiple ways.

Fears of being alone may cause you to rush into relationships that are not the best fit for you or cause you to stay in unfulfilling relationships, as stated by Marisa T. Cohen, Ph.D., MFT, CPLC, for Psychology Today. This is usually in hopes that you will be able to lock down a partner quickly and avoid being alone.

These fears can also result in making relationship choices out of fear and obsessing over whether or not to start over or end a relationship.

The negative effects of these fears on relationships have even been supported by research.

Spielmann et al. 's study (2013) has shown that people will settle for less in a relationship for fear of being single.

This study found that fear of being single “consistently predicted romantic interest in less responsive and less attractive dating targets.” It also found that people with stronger fears were more likely to lower their standards, both in their current relationships and when selecting new mates, and have a “… greater dependence in less satisfying relationships.”

The fears we may feel about being alone have detrimental effects on who our romantic partners are. The more fear we have, the less likely we are to be in or end a relationship that is not satisfying.

To reduce these fears you must be real with yourself about how you feel in your relationship and why you are choosing to stay with your partner. Try to be emotionally present and understand why you may fear being single or leaving your current relationship.

Reason #3: You don’t value yourself

When you don’t value yourself or have chronically low self-esteem you might attach your self-worth and value to what your partner thinks of you.

When you rely on others for your value, you can be constantly weighed down by your fears and doubts which can prevent you from being present in your relationship or enjoying it. You may also rely on your partner to reassure you or give you constant validation.

This can be an issue in your relationships as you may become resentful if your partner doesn’t do this for you or you may place blame on them for feeling insecure or unloved in the relationship. The result of this may be you working harder to please your partner, working harder to earn their love, or withholding from the relationship.

Needing constant validation from your partner can come off to them as neediness and can make them feel overwhelmed or drained.

You may not only need reassurance of your value when you don’t value yourself, but you may also need reassurance with your decisions as well.

When you have low self-esteem you may not trust your judgment or instincts and may be afraid of being wrong. This can lead you to need your partner, or others, to guide you and can cause you to live in a constant state of anxiety or stress.

This can create problems in your life as people who don't value themselves tend to stay in bad relationships that are unacceptable or mistreating. When you don’t value yourself you'll attract people who don’t value you either and these people may send you down the wrong path.

Attracting people who don’t value you, settling for a relationship in which you’re treated poorly, and sabotaging your relationship are all examples of behaviors you may be subconsciously doing in order to ultimately match the beliefs you hold about yourself.

When your relationships end, you may attribute the failures to yourself. You may obsess over and replay every event or interaction in your relationships to figure out what went wrong and what you did wrong. Although you might understand that that person just wasn’t for you, you may still subconsciously believe you are the problem and are unlovable or undeserving.

You must recognize that there is no relationship that can compensate for your beliefs that you don’t deserve it. The only relationship that will have an effect on this is the one with yourself.

It’s extremely important to recognize your own value and self-worth. To increase the value you see in yourself, commit to replacing self-criticism with self-compassion and practice being kind to yourself.

This process may take a while to get the hang of or do correctly, but it is one that will improve your life greatly.

Reason #4: You believe your relationship will complete you

As mentioned in reason #1, believing a partner will complete you can cause many different issues.

When you approach a relationship with a feeling of being incomplete or a sense of emptiness you are typically looking for a partner with specific characteristics. The traits you desire are what you believe is necessary for you to fill the void you feel inside.

Having expectations that your partner will complete you can put a lot of pressure on them and it may be sabotaging your chance of finding a romantic partner. Some people may even say that it’s unrealistic.

When you approach a relationship from a sense of emptiness inside, the person you’re dating will be able to sense it. The underlying feeling of being incomplete or going into a relationship out of fear can make you insecure and full of self-doubt rather than calmness.

Your own incompleteness and the filling of the emptiness inside is personal work that cannot and should not be handed over to your partner.

If you do not do your inner work to heal, this sense of emptiness will continue to persist in each of your relationships.

Reason #5: Your ‘wounded self’ is doing the attracting

As stated by Jodee Virgo, MA, LMFT, the parts of you that feel incomplete or damaged are your ‘wounded self’. This part of you makes you question your worth and value, especially if you are worth loving in a relationship.

Your ‘wounded self’ may cause you to continuously choose partners that you believe you can ‘fix’. This means that you settle for partners based on their potential rather than their reality.

It might be easy for you to put your energy, focus, and attention into helping your partner figure out their issues and what they need to change. Putting most of your attention on your partner allows you to avoid looking at your own problems and may even be a way of “unconsciously acting out how you wish to be treated.” In a way, ‘fixing’ this person could be something you believe would determine that you’re finally deserving and worthy of love.

This belief is simply not true. ‘Fixing’ your partner or attempting to fix them will not necessarily make you feel more worthy and, as mentioned by Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D., it can potentially reinforce negative issues or self attitudes.

When you go into a relationship with these intentions, you are actually abandoning yourself and avoiding your deeper needs.

Your ‘wounded self’ needs a lot of healing in order for you to choose partners from a healthy place. To do this, you must do your inner work such as figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t, healing from past relationships, etc.

If you don’t do your inner work, your ‘wounded self’ may continue choosing your partners and may result in you being with the wrong person.

Reason #6: Familiarity

We are unconsciously drawn to the familiar.

Familiarity leads to comfort which is one reason why we tend to choose familiar partners or partners that are a specific ‘type’.

We are attracted to these people because we consider them to be safe and unlikely to cause harm, or at least not in an expected way. We are also drawn to familiar people and situations that make us, as adults, feel the same way we did going through past experiences that made us who we are.

Choosing to have romantic relationships with familiar partners can be due to the desire to remain in your comfort zone. This can be seen in the example given by Jodee Virgo, MA, LMFT, “You may be initially attracted to someone whose attention makes you feel good about yourself, but eventually, you start to notice that your partner is resistant to getting close and can be dismissive. This will, in turn, trigger your fear of rejection, validate that you feel inadequate, and trigger anxiety.”

The pattern of familiarity you may be encountering in your relationships can prevent you from finding a partner that is aligned with your core values and can limit the number of people who could be right for you.

To break this cycle of familiarity you must become aware of the patterns in your relationship. By increasing your awareness, you will be able to take control of the behaviors you were subconsciously participating in and create a new pattern for yourself.

You can do this by reflecting on similarities between past partners and relationships. It will also be helpful to look back at your relationship and patterns present in your experiences with your parents.

It is important that you do not blame yourself for engaging in these patterns or behaviors. What was happening subconsciously was not in your control but now you can use this information to enable you to make decisions for yourself from a place of self-worth.

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