When you’re in the grip of a marriage addiction, it seems as if you can never pick the right partner. You keep ending up with someone who’s emotionally unavailable, who’s super needy or manipulative or just downright abusive. Or someone who dumps you. It’s never the right one. Is it you, or do you just have a poor picker?
The truth is, it’s your picker. People are usually attracted to a partner who is familiar in some way, who shares their view of how people interact in relationships. If you came from a family of happily married caregivers who gave their children (that’s you) all the care and nurturing and support and guidance you needed to grow into a healthy adult, that’s great. In that case, a partner who mirrors the family you grew up in is likely to lead to a happy marriage.
But marriage and relationship addicts typically grew up with caregivers who either abandoned or neglected them. Often, they ended up being the ones who had to care for and support their parents. Sometimes, they were told all the time that they were never good enough, never worthy of love.
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. These choices fulfill a subconscious need to pick partners who remind us of the parent-child bonds we are so used to—no matter how unsatisfying they were. Our subconscious minds think, “Yes, I know this, it feels familiar, I know how to deal with this kind of relationship.” So we end up reliving those unsatisfying, unfulfilling childhood relationships as adults. Different people, but the same scenarios.
But there’s more. Marriage and relationship junkies need someone to take care of them in a way their early caregivers did not. Often, they have a fantasy that they’ll marry someone who’s just like emotionally absent dad or perpetually critical mom, only this time around they will give us exactly what we need. We’ll get to live our childhood over, but this time with a happy ending.
Your rational mind knows that you can’t relive the past; all of us only get to live now. But that subconscious mind is craving a do-over, and trying to make you believe it’s possible. So it’s pushing you to pick someone who is like your early caregivers—someone who can never give you what you need. And it’s feeding a fantasy that this time things will be different. Which they won’t.
Meanwhile, you’re searching for someone to be your everything, but end up picking someone who is much, much less. You can’t fix old childhood wounds by picking familiar but unsatisfying partners. There’s just no way around it: If your parents disappointed you and you marry someone who is just like your parents, that person will also disappoint you. Your picker needs a readjustment.
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.