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Why Your Relationships Hurt

If you really thought about it, I bet you could come up with a description of what your perfect relationship would feel like. The relationship that you consciously want would be unconditionally loving and supportive, intimate and fun. But no matter what you do, you can’t find that relationship. It’s like you are cursed. You keep ending up with partners who make you feel unloved, unsupported, undervalued, unseen and stressed. You keep asking yourself “why do I deserve this?” Well guess what, it has nothing to do with deserving. It has everything to do with your subconscious mind. We are creatures of habit. In this world, which feels chaotic and unsafe to us, we feel as if we can guarantee stability, continuity and a sense of certainty by returning to what is familiar. Instinctually we eat at that same restaurant every week or month. We sleep on the same side of the bed. We assign specific spots to our kitchen utensils. We wear the same style of clothing. We watch the same television shows, we have sex the same way… do I need to go on?

Here’s the thing, when you were a child, with no conscious idea about what love is, and with a cerebral cortex that was not developed yet, you were interacting with the world purely through felt perception. You felt the world long before you intellectualized it. And the way you felt about something, set up your expectations and then beliefs about that thing. Even if you had a violent, abusive or lonely childhood, your home was still “home”. It was where you went to sleep at night. It is where you were fed and clothed (or not fed and clothed). It was where you got your attention (or lack there of). Children are born loving their parents. And they are born assuming that their parents love them. The relationship with the family they are born into is their first taste of human connection and thus, their first taste of love. It doesn’t matter if we, in our adult perspective look backwards and say “that was not a loving household”, a child doesn’t know any different than this version if love that exists in their home. Because of this, they associate LOVE with HOME. The way that they felt in their home and in their relationship with their parents becomes their definition of love. This means, if your home felt like chaos and confusion and loneliness and deception, you think that is what love is supposed to feel like. As we grow up, we become conscious of what is good and what is bad. We banish things we think are bad to the subconscious mind. We try to deny them, we try to avoid looking at them and we try to forget them, and often succeed. This is why so many people do not remember their childhoods. The minute that we develop a conscious definition of what love is and how we want love to feel, we create a rift between our subconscious definition of love and our conscious definition of love. Consciously, we know love should feel loving and supportive and open and trusting. Subconsciously, we know love should feel unloving, unsupportive, constricted and fearful. On a conscious level, we think we are going after the partners who will make us feel that conscious definition of love. But, our subconscious mind (the one that is in charge of our instant biochemical attraction to someone) which is much more primal and much more in charge of our emotions, only allows us to become attracted to someone who fits it’s definition of love. Your mind will link any associations you have with home, with what love is supposed to feel like. And when you consciously decide you want love in your life, your subconscious compels you towards partners who satisfy those associations you have with love. Your subconscious mind takes you back to your childhood home. So this is how it works, if love equals home and home equals abandonment than love equals abandonment.

Let’s say that when you were growing up, you were born to an alcoholic father and an enabling mother. Home to you, felt like anxiety and it felt like crisis. You were always trying to avoid your father’s raging hot temper and you felt like nothing you could do was right. To some degree, everyone’s focus was on your father and so you were ignored whenever you were not being yelled at. You felt lonely in your childhood home. You wanted to run away, but you didn’t know how. When you grow up, even though you consciously want a partner who is there with you and who is kind and gentle and who makes you feel complete inside, you keep ending up with partners who make you feel anxiety. Life with them is one crisis after another. You are drawn to people who at first seem cool and collected, but who turn out to have extremely hot tempers. They ignore you when they aren’t yelling at you. And to some degree, you feel immeasurably lonely, you want to end the relationship, but you don’t know how. The thing is, despite your suspicions, it’s not that all men or all women are this way. You meet plenty of women or men who are loving and who could make for great, supportive partners and who seldom (if ever) get angry. But when you meet them, you don’t feel that “spark”. Your subconscious mind says, “This is not what love feels like, so I don’t think its love”. Whereas, when you meet someone and your subconscious mind senses that they are an unstable person with a hot temper, who is emotionally distant, it says, “Ah, this must be love”. Your subconscious mind, compelled by instinct, takes you right back to your childhood home in the same way that without your conscious notice, it compels you to sleep on the same side of the bed at night. And three months later, you’re kicking yourself asking “why me”? So we are going to do an exercise. Take out a piece of paper and think back to how you felt in your childhood home. Write down what it felt like to be at home and what it felt like to be around your parents growing up. For many of us, home was a mix of good feelings and bad feelings. But it is the painful associations that we have with home that causes the problems in our love relationships. For this reason, when you write this list, I want you to make sure to write down all the negative things and negative feelings you can remember about being in your childhood home and in your relationship with your parents, siblings and/or or primary caregivers up until you left home. When you have completed this list, cross out the word love and in it’s place, write LOVE. You are looking at your subconscious definition of love; do your relationship make more sense now? There is a famous psychologist and self-help author named Barbara De Angeles. She is most known for her work with relationships in the 90s. During some of her seminars, she would have people in the audience do an exercise called the “Wanted Ad”. We are going to do that exercise today. You have seen the “wanted” relationship ads in the newspaper that go a little something like this: Wanted: Sensitive, caring man (or woman) who is capable of a deep relationship. Sense of humor is a must. I’m looking for someone who is successful but is not a workaholic. And most importantly, I seek someone who is emotionally available. If you are honest, healthy, trustworthy and ready for a commitment, then I am the one for you, call (insert number here). However, if you were to match your emotional wants ad to the partners you actually end up with, it is as if your “wanted” ad must have read like this: Wanted: Self centered, insensitive man (or woman) who is incapable of a deep relationship. Seriousness and no sense of humor is a must. I’m looking for someone who is dead broke, regardless of how much he works. And you must be emotionally unavailable. If you are dishonest, unhealthy, untrustworthy and afraid of commitment, I am the one for you. Call (insert number here).

So obviously, as we saw in the previous exercise, what our conscious minds say we want and what our subconscious minds say we want are two different things. So take out another sheet of paper and write down the names of any romantic partners that you were emotionally attached to, including the relationship you are in now. These should be significant relationships. The ones where you felt that you were really in love or at least seriously attached to them in some way. Now, next to each person’s name, write down all of his or her negative qualities. What did you dislike about them or how you felt around them? For example, Mike: jobless, dishonest, controlling, manipulative, moody, used me for money, made me feel like I was worthless, impractical, flirted with my sister, could not communicate, made me feel completely alone. Or Mary: Emotionally unstable, crazy, whiny, insecure, drama queen, victim, made me the bad guy, hated sex, negative, critical, closed minded. Once you have finished, go over your lists and circle any qualities that repeat themselves. For example, if every person you were with was critical, circle critical. These circled aspects will tell you what your subconscious definition of love really is. Now, with the words you have circled, write a creative wanted ad. By doing this, you will come to understand what “advertisement” you are subconsciously putting out for a partner; as well as the kind of people you are actually attracted to. This is the kind of person you have been seeking. This is why relationships are painful to you. It is good if we can learn to laugh at our choices. So, try to make this want ad as funny as you possibly can. Try to write something that makes you laugh. For your viewing pleasure, here are two examples of “truthful want ads”, one written by a female and one written by a male.

Female Version Wanted: Are you looking for a relationship where you don’t have to take care of your woman, where you don’t have to invest any energy into the relationship whatsoever (including money)? Do you want a relationship where you don’t have to think of romantic things to do and can avoid emotional intimacy all together? Then I am the woman for you. I am looking for an apathetic man, someone willing to forsake me, because being forsaken is my secret fetish. I want a man who can make me feel like damaged goods. I want to watch the sun set with a man who is broke, lacks ambition, will only tolerate me when I’m positive and only wants to have fun. No responsibility required. If you like to give up on your woman and you’re trying to find someone who doesn’t feel taken for granted and unlovable when you do that, call me at: (insert phone number here)

Male Version: Wanted: Antisocial bachelor with intimacy issues seeks a dark, vampiric witch who is both crazy and unhinged. I can deal with the craziness as long as you're hot. Sex appeal fixes all problems, until a little while later when problems REALLY blow up. I usually say I want a quiet, simple, stable homemaker; but I actually don't because let’s be honest, I'd get bored of you super quickly. Instability makes me feel at home and I love power struggles. Drama is a must. What I really want is someone that keeps me on my toes like an exhausting and strategic game of chess. If you've had a really fucked up childhood this gives me the chance to 'rescue' you and then I'm all yours. Emotional volatility wins my heart and attention every time... Well, at least my attention. Call me at (insert number here)

When you are done, compare the findings from this exercise and from your previous “home” exercise to gain more awareness of your subconscious definition of love. What you will find is that the same negative qualities you find in a mate, perfectly mirror the way you felt in your childhood home.

Becoming aware of our subconscious emotional drives, is the first step towards becoming vigilent about the partners we choose. And, it clears up the confusion we feel in our current relationships by allowing us to see our relationship dynamic for what it really is. The more awareness we have about something, the easier it is to make changes according to that expanded awareness. Our relationships will improve if we can become aware enough to make our relationship problems (and the discussions that come from those problems) about what they are really about.


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