We all tend to pick partners who reflect the vision we have of ourselves and our world. Unfortunately, that means marriage junkies end up being attracted to partners who remind them of their dysfunctional family relationships, where they never got what they needed. It’s ironic, in a way, because while they’re searching for someone to be their everything, they end up settling for much, much less.
Here are some of the reasons why relationship addicts settle for relationships that just don’t give them what they need.
- Denial. Denial of reality (who are partner really is, who we truly are, whether we are actually happy in the relationship) keeps us deluding ourselves about our partner and ourselves. We see only what we want to see, and explain away the rest.
- Illusions. We believe we can change people into who we want them to be. We assume they will somehow behave differently with us or we can make them behave differently. We might convince ourselves that once we’re married, they will miraculously become the person we long for them to be.
- Low self-esteem. Good self-esteem is a result of empathic and nurturing parenting, but if we grow up in a family where our needs are not met, validated, or acknowledged, we feel invisible and that our needs don’t count. That can result in feelings of unworthiness and not being good enough because we have been invalidated and misunderstood.
- Shame. Underneath shame are deep feelings of self-deprecation and inadequacy. We feel unworthy, unlovable, and disconnected from ourselves, therefore, others. When we develop low self-esteem that results from shame, we end up sabotaging our relationships with controlling, rescuing, and/or people-pleasing behaviors.
- Dependence. This unhealthy attachment to another person is not the same as a healthy connection with someone who is dependable. In essence, we cannot recognize our wholeness and completeness, so instead we enter into relationships as half a person—someone who feels incomplete without a partner.
- Emptiness. This feeling is a result of growing up in a family where our need for nurturing and empathy is not met. If our basic need for attachment is not met, the resulting feeling of abandonment sets us up for depression, anxiety, chronic loneliness and isolation—all aspects of emptiness or a feeling of nothingness.
- Fear of abandonment and rejection. Missing out on early bonding with a primary caregiver can cause extreme fear of abandonment leading to a child being parentified—taking on responsibilities way beyond what they are developmentally able to take on. When these children become adults, they continue the abandonment cycle by either having relationships with people who are emotionally unavailable or by avoiding relationships entirely—thereby avoiding the threat of rejection.
When we aren’t honest about what motivates us, we end up settling for less every time. How many women do you know who fantasize about the wedding day versus the actual marriage? If you can see, their priorities are way off. A wedding is just a day, but a marriage should be a lifetime.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW is a Radio Host, Certified Transformation Coach and author of the award winning book The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery and Ecourse. You can take her quiz to find out if you are co-dependent or sign up for a 30 minute strategy session with Sherry. Check out Sherry’s new book The Marriage and Relationship Junkie: Kicking Your Obsession.