Why do we make (and repeat) bad relationship choices?

Most of us have, at some point or another, been in love with someone who wasn’t good for us, and to us. Some have done it once and learned the lesson, some are still doing it and can’t understand why they keep choosing the same pattern, the same bad boy or girl over and over again.

It can be very painful to live like that, but often we persist because we don’t see a way out. We get attracted to a new partner hoping it will be different this time around, but they end up treating us badly just as the one before.

Maybe you keep dating guys that openly and persistently flirt, or even cheat on you. Or you always end up in relationships with jealous and possessive girls who follow your every move and try to control your life. Maybe you are dating an emotionally detached guy over and over again – and keep wondering why is he so distant and cold and why is it so hard to get close to him. Maybe you repeatedly date women who criticise everything you do, making you feel small and unappreciated.

So why do people do this? Why do we end up in relationship patterns that don’t do us any good? Why do we stay with partners who make us feel miserable – why don’t we just get up and leave?

It’s because we believe we can’t do any better. We pick partners that treat us like doormats because we don’t believe we are worthy of being treated nicely. It’s usually not a conscious choice – often we don’t know we should ask for more love and respect, because we’ve always been treated this way (in our families, schools, social environments).

We stay with wrong people for the same reason – we don’t think we deserve more. And if we’re at the same time scared of being alone, we can easily stay in hurtful relationships for a long time, numbing our pain by telling ourselves that ‘it could be worse’ and ‘at least I have someone’.

Sometimes we even confuse this toxic addiction with true love. We believe it’s the greatest love of all – because no mater what our partner does, we still madly love them. We think that’s pure, unconditional love – but it’s mostly just lack of self-respect, insecurity and low self-esteem, and this partner, no matter how bad they are – at least makes us feel like we’re worth something (because somebody wants us).

When we do break up – or they break up with us, we again go for the same type of person because we don’t think our relationship choices are deliberate in any way. We are either convinced we just have bad luck or we believe it’s OK to keep getting attracted to the same type – because we can’t control who we get attracted to.

Well, that is true to a certain extent.

We can’t always explain what and why gives us the hots for someone. But there are many elements of attraction that directly depend on how we feel about ourselves, and what we value in life, and in other people.

Let me give you an example. In a recent discussion on this topic I talked to a women who claimed that she can only get attracted to dark men. When asked why, she said it’s probably because her uncle was this great male role model for her, and she sees him as the archetype of a ‘real man’. Of course, he has dark hair and physical features that she always falls for. Her conclusion was that because she admires her uncle so much – she is bound to always see dark men as more attractive than fair-haired ones.

This can be fine, if your specific =attraction preference is broad so you can find enough candidates that fit some other, much more important criteria like personality, lifestyle and emotional maturity. But what if your role model was an aggressive father or a controlling mother? What if the patterns you’ve grown accustomed to, and still get drawn to today – are hurtful and abusive? You only have two choices: put up with it, or – work on changing your attraction criteria.

Changing what you like is only possible when you realise you do have a choice. When you understand you don’t need to be with partners who don’t respect and love you for who you are. Only then the change can happen – and it will happen spontaneously. You’ll just wake up one day and you’ll stop being attracted to people who can’t love you. They just won’t do anything for you any more, and instead – you’ll start getting the hots for all those nice people you’ve never noticed before.

So how can you get to that point? How can you consciously start changing your attraction mechanisms? There is only one way – learning to love and respect yourself more. When you treat yourself with love, you’ll see there is no reason or need to let anyone else treat you otherwise. You’ll see you don’t have to settle for less. And you’ll know there is no need to worry you’ll stay alone. Because when you know what you’re worth – there will always, always be somebody special out there who will recognise it too.


Do you feel you get attracted to partners who are not a good match for you?
Do you think it can be changed or there’s nothing you can do about it?

Please leave a comment below. Thank you!

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7 Responses

  1. jamal says:

    i have been in a relationship that i knew wouldn’t work out. i notice that it’s not who i attract.it’s who you give the benefit of a doubt that they can change if they want. for most i think will take years to break the bad relationship streak if they actually take time out to know themselves. won’t end up in this viscous cycle. i like to think about the movie butterfly effect pt. one for some reason anywho i know i will find the right one i just know if i stayed in this unhealthy relationship i can handle her and actually willing to step up to make difficult possible but i know won’t work out being in a relationship with this person who needs to see that she can be with her man and make it work. to be in one it takes a certain level of maturity,understanding ect.i know it would make me happy even though im just as fine being single,no kids and a life to lead love n laugh with o without while being at peace and finally eleminating stress reducing violence just growing as a better person i want her to realize respect, discipline, trust and love are strong words that go a long way i can handle being friends and a good influence but at the same time can’t and won’t accept the bad the wickedness the level of passionate hate and envy towards whatever lost,never to return unless u get ur life together before u get with me type. im capable and deserve better. my filter was never closed i know what i want and who i want

  2. Kimberly says:

    Very worried about my son..He has anxiety and pssd from years ago.. Seems to get into relationships with girls that are single moms with out jobs and ends up fully supporting them..They have no drive to better themselves.. He gets attached to the child and stays in relationship.. Even though girl has severe mood swings and anger …I have asked him to not bring her here anymore..He is 23 years old now…She has a disfunctional family that he has had conflict with and he had a conflict with and they pressed charges on him…He is now on probation for 2 years.. never had any legal issues..She never supports him only his wallet..Please help with advice .. educational literature.. anything will be appreciated

    • Petra says:

      Does your son see this as a problem? Because if he doesn’t there is not much you can do. If he does, I can help – we can do a consultation (him and I), or I can suggest books and resources if he’s not willing to work with a coach or counselor. But he needs to be the one to make that call – come to a conclusion that he needs help, and then ask for it.

  3. Maria says:

    I have been in a verbally abusive relationship for 15 years. I’ve lost my youth and self respect to this man. I am now lonely, sexually unfulfilled and suffer from dark depression. I can’t leave because I’m 250 pounds overweight and know I won’t get anyone else. I’ve been subject to public humiliation, private humiliation, cheating (I caug him with a woman on my side of the bed), alienation, etc. I hate to put this out there because some people will judge based on that alone, but I’m also Muslim. It isn’t easy to find someone else. No one looks at me that way. The only time I’m visible is if there’s a bad news story on CNN. He’s 11 years older than me and from Iraq. I think his age more than his country has a lot to do with it, though I could be in denial. I’ve often thought he’s making me pay for the indiscretions of his last wife. She cheated on him and so because he couldn’t get her back he took out his frustrations on a lonely 23-year-old, obese, multiracial, black virgin who always had hugely bad self-esteem and is and always will be bipolar. So you see. Some of us are hopeless. I am now 38 and my youth and hope for anything 50 shades is gone. I’m so depressed I can taste it. Have any tips? Good luck.

    • Petra says:

      You can lose the extra weight. That is a worthy goal, that will not only bring you back your self esteem, but will give you better health and open so many more doors and possibilities to do something that will fulfill you in your life. Why not do that? I know it’s hard to break the emotional addiction and patters of eating, and it’s not just a decision you make one day, but it can be done. Day by day, just get yourself going on that path, and you’ll get there. You have nothing to lose if you try. That will turn your life around in so many ways. Nobody can do it for you, but you have the power to change your destiny. Start with the body – and the soul will start healing too. You are only 38, it’s too early to give up on life and happiness. Wish you all my best.

  4. Logan Reid says:

    I am 26 years old and the relationship well slash friendship I have had I just ended because I felt I was doing nothing but hurting her more than making her happy. Her and I used to have a lot of fun together but now things have changed. I have lied to her cheated on her via social networking plus I am very manipulative and to make things worse I couldn’t get aroused by her. She was the only good I had in my life and I threw it all away because of my actions. I have been in so many relationships that were bad that I have never knew what it felt like to be in an actual good one. I have gotten so used to being treated like shit by the people I have came and gone into my life even my own parents that I have displayed despicable behaviors. Now I’m here with a lot of regret and I have nobody to blame but myself. What should I do now?

    • Petra says:

      The way to change… is to change 🙂 It’s great you’ve been able to see your mistakes, just start doing things differently. Respect yourself (don’t let people treat you like shit), respect others (don’t treat them like shit) – and your experience will change. We always get from the world what we put out into it. Lots of times our parents are to blame for teaching us the wrong ways, but we can change that. You are not a product of your parents, you can just choose to be a better person than they are, and that they taught you to be. Forgive yourself, ask for forgiveness from the people you’ve wronged – and turn a new leaf. We can’t change the past, but that’s why we have the future – to make things right for ourselves and others. Take care.

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