This the first article in a series about relationships. When I was in my 20s, I met my grand obsession. This man devastated me. Slowly, I decided to examine myself to change my relationships. I noticed that all the men I dated seemed almost interchangeable. Their names were different, but their personalities were very similar. As I looked at myself, I came up with 10 action steps to change who I chose to love. You can do this for yourself too. Here is how.
Action 1: List all painful or problematic relationships in your history.
This includes sexual and love relationships as well as family relationships. Contrary to popular psychology and my own expectations, I discovered that I kept dating and marrying men who were like my mother.
Action 2: Describe the situation and detail what happened.
This is a little more difficult than it sounds on the surface. Most people describe how they felt during a situation. That won't get you your freedom. You need objective details. Like the very ancient television show, "Just the facts!" What people said, what they actually did, how they stood, sat, their facial expressions, and so on. You can even use a list of your senses as a guide: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. For example, seeing money gone in the check register, telling me I'm crazy, smelling of other sex partners, tasting of alcohol, and physically abusing me.
Action 3: What did they offer you?
Every painful relationship begins with an offer of some kind. It's usually something you want deep within your core. Your fantasy of how things should be. Most destructive and/or abusive relationships begin with the offer of your secret dream.
And the offer is a lie. Sadly, it really is just a lie. The old adage is true: If it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.
If you learn what motivated you to enter and stay in an unhealthy relationship, you can grow and change. In my case, Mom always offered me her unqualified love and support right before she trashed me. My grand obsession said on the first date, "I love you as much as I'm capable of loving anyone." My ex, nameless, offered me the illusion of social acceptability.
Action 4: Describe them as you know them now after the relationship ended badly.
Please don't include the impressions you had of them when you first met. This needs to be factual, rather than feelings. Descriptive, not how you feel. My list included people who actually hated the opposite sex. Others were power-hungry, liars, and stole my money. There were men who cheated on me and made attempts to remain top dog, center stage, or the star no matter the cost to me.
Action 5: Get specific about when you first noticed their character and personality flaws.
This becomes obvious the more you delve into it. Everyone. I mean, everyone I ever walked through this process saw his or her truths early in the relationship. With my grand obsession and nameless, my truth showed up on the very first date!
Action 6: How you ignored your own insight.
This is very important. These are responses that everyone who has destructive relationship patterns makes. They are only semiconscious reactions and not deliberate. This is why it's critical to become aware of yourself.
When someone behaves in a way that does not suit you, what many people do is mentally shake themselves. Then, in some way, they write themselves off. They invalidate themselves. I ignored it when my grand obsession added the following to his "I love you" statement: "I'm not capable of a relationship."
When I looked back over my history of failed relationships, I saw that I somehow ignored my own instincts. Some people think they are bitchy, judgmental, and mean spirited if they allow themselves to become aware of the truths they see.
Other people believe they have to be kind and overlook people's faults. You don't have to be mean and tell people what you just saw. Just let yourself know that the person is not for you.
Action 7: Build your new defenses.
This involves skills such as saying "no" when someone asks you for a date or for your time when you really want to say "no." I made a written list for myself of statements I could use when people asked me for things, activities, and situations that were not right for me. I could write a list here, but this needs to be YOUR list of statements and actions that protect you.
Action 8: Spend time spotting and identifying people who are not suitable for you.
I used to go to parties and dances and practice looking around the room. Then I'd say to myself in the privacy of my own mind as I spotted men who were unsuitable for me: "There's one." Each and every one was someone I would have, in the past, gravitated toward. This way, I became skilled at identifying my pattern without any new grief cost.
Action 9: Spend time getting to know the other people in the room.
At first, this was roll-my-eyes boring. I had to give up the drama and danger associated with men who would harm me. Then I had to get to know who else was left. I spent time meeting many men and enjoying their company. Talking to them, listening to them, getting to know and understand them. Eventually liking them.
Action 10: Make a list of what you now know you want in a partner.
Don't do this first. If you go through all the above actions, you will understand yourself well enough to make an accurate list. Then you can look for those folks with enough of the characteristics that actually suit you.
It took me about a year and a half to work through those actions. Shortly after I did all of these, I met the man I married. The first great love of my life. After he died, it took a while, but I met Sarge, the second great love of my life.
You can do this for yourself. You can change your pattern.