The pattern of repeatedly getting stuck in an unequal relationship

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Why do you think you end up getting hurt in every relationship? Do you see a pattern?

I asked my friend as she opened up to me, disappointed about the sheer inequality in her relationship. After thinking for a moment, she said — “I thought he will change. I guess I am just unlucky in love?”

And that’s when I knew I had to write about it. I am not a relationship expert nor a counsellor. But I have learned enough through life experiences, listening to female friends struggle with the same challenges time and again. For some reason, women open up to me naturally. Maybe because I listen without judging. After all, that’s all we need to express ourselves freely.

Most women understand what they want in a partner, but they don’t go for it. Instead, they date the same old mean and self-centred man who brings the worst in them. I am not saying every woman goes through this. But for the ones who do, there are clear patterns. Here are some reasons I believe this happens to the ones who go through this.

Women are natural givers, narcissists are takers

Most women are caring and generous by nature. They love doing things for their partner. Narcissists are good at taking advantage, and so it seems complementary. It’s not!

Women take care of the guy thinking someday he will reciprocate. The truth is — If he doesn’t care now, he won’t care later either.

I once lived with a flatmate who used to bring dates home to stay overnight. In the morning, she would prepare breakfast for both. A typical narcissist would be sitting on the couch, watching TV, waiting for her to bring his breakfast. Good guys who were really into her would help her prepare or be with her in the kitchen at least. Guess which type she used to fancy more? Of course, the “well-mannered” guy sitting on the couch who would let her take care of him!

The real currency of the 21st century is not money or gifts. It’s time and attention. Those who care will give you that consistently.

They overthink the nice guy out of their lives

Some women have gone through so much betrayal in life that they look at every relationship with scepticism and suspicion. It could be their past relationships, parents, relatives or even close friends. Men have hurt them again and again in the past. So much so that they stop trusting them.

Here is a typical conversation with a friend.

Sarah: I am tired of dating mean and self centered men. I want someone who is empathetic, kind-hearted and loyal. Someone I can trust and has no insecurities.
Me: Dan seems like a pretty decent guy. What do you think about him?
Sarah: Ummm… I don't know! I mean I like him but he is too nice. How can someone be so understanding all the time? It feels like he is hiding something. Maybe he is lying to me. I don’t think I should trust him. No way. I don’t think he is my type!

Do you see what’s happening here? What she wants is probably right in front of her, but she is not ready to believe it. Instead, she will look for someone a little disrespectful or aggressive and expect that he will change as the relationship progresses.

Women play “hard to get” games and receive the same in return

We attract who we are, and if we try to become someone else, we attract similar energy.

Several friends have advised me not to be available to a woman even if she is kind to you. Pretend to be inaccessible or uninterested. When I ask them about their approach with men, here are some rules they follow:

  • Do not respond to his messages immediately. Take at least 2 hours to reply.
  • Never say yes to going on a date instantly, let him wait and wonder until the last moment.
  • After a date, never text him immediately, even if it went well. Wait for his call or text.

Now that strategy works for sure in the short term because who doesn’t enjoy a solid chase. But in the long run, you are likely going to attract a guy with a similar nature. A genuine, kind-hearted guy will probably get confused and eventually give up. Why? Because he doesn’t understand these games. On the other hand, a narcissist will probably enjoy this challenge and will go to any extent to gain control.

Would you want to spend the rest of your life with someone who enjoys games and makes empty promises? Or someone straightforward and not pretentious?

I believe making a subtle change to your approach may repel some men. But you are more likely to find someone your type than the one you have been trying to avoid.

Their childhood experiences impact their choices

If you want to understand a woman’s perspective on relationships, ask her about her father. Her description can tell a lot about what she wants or doesn’t want in her partner. A woman’s first relationship with a man is the one with her father. It influences her choices in men and her ability to cope with the ebb and flow of a developing relationship.

Someone I know once had a continuous pattern of being in abusive relationships. She would give her all every time, only to be left disappointed because he wouldn’t treat her as an equal. It turns out that her parents were separated when she was young.

She lived with her mother but became resentful because of her narrow mindset. Her father had multiple relationships outside their marriage. Yet, she admired him because of his calm demeanour and business acumen.

Can you observe the pattern here? She was attracted to men who were just like her father. She did not respect her mother but was subconsciously behaving like her. She developed low self-esteem due to these experiences, which led her to such choices.

Our upbringing and childhood experiences play a critical role in how we make choices in life. Identifying unresolved past issues or grudges by talking to a close friend or seeking support from a therapist can help break these patterns.

Women think they don’t deserve better

So many women say they want a nice, kind-hearted man and then end up friend-zoning them because apparently, he is too nice. Instead, they go for men who don’t treat them well because they subconsciously think that is what they deserve. In many instances, that is because they’ve been abused for years and always considered it normal.

I think most women recognize that narcissistic men don’t make good long-term partners. But society has moulded women to be compliant and agreeable. So, they subconsciously get attracted to traits that were typically suppressed during their childhood. As a result, it leads to a pattern of choosing the same traits time and again, and getting hurt.

The way to heal from that is to stop dating for a while and work on self-care. Visiting a relationship counsellor or therapist can also help to identify these patterns. It’s not an easy situation, so there’s no easy solution, unfortunately.

Final thoughts

The pattern of subconsciously choosing the same kind of toxic partner, again and again, can be frustrating. What is even more disheartening is unknowingly rejecting the one who could have been a lifelong soulmate. I believe in the law of attraction. We attract what we consciously and subconsciously think.

Being aware of the beliefs and thoughts holding you back can help you break out of these patterns. It is not an easy ride, but at some point, we have to face the truth. The first step is to acknowledge that there is a pattern to break.

Happiness comes from within. It is not dependent on external things or on other people. You become vulnerable and can be easily hurt when your feelings of security and happiness depend on the behaviour and actions of other people. Never give your power to anyone else.
― Brian Weiss

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