Even if you didn't experience childhood trauma, you might still be attracted to unhealthy relationships or unavailable men based on a part of your unique lovemap. Fortunately, there are ways that you can work through these obstacles, too. Follow the steps below to break out of negative patterns and change your love life for the better.
Step one: Break things off
Break off communication with the ex from hell. You know the one I am talking about: he's never there when you need him, but is always calling you late at night when he's had a few too many drinks (or vice versa). He knows he can take advantage of you because you are still vulnerable from the breakup. You still get excited by his phone call and fantasize about your relationship working someday, even though your friends and family tell you to break it off once and for all. Take their well-intentioned advice and stop answering the phone when he calls. The best way to leave the past behind is to decide not to get sucked back into hurtful scenarios by a guy who wants you for the moment, but not for forever. Remind yourself: it's his loss!
Step two: Replace bad thoughts
Be purposeful about writing down any negative thoughts and feelings. Now that you know why you are attracted to certain types, you can also start to identify the unique scripts in your head that are informing this selection. In other words, if you have a running dialogue in your head that says you are overweight, unintelligent, worthless, or any other negative quality, you aren't going to pick a partner who treats you with respect. Write down your most common negative thoughts. Think about where each thought came from and write that down, too (for example, perhaps your emotionally abusive mom often said that you were fat, or your first boyfriend called you a slut after you lost your virginity to him). Notice how many of these negative thoughts were actually implanted by others and then internalized by you as true. Are you ready to let go of them? Can you look at each belief about yourself, examine where it came from, and decide to no longer carry that voice in your head as the woman you are now?
Consider making a symbolic gesture and burning or ripping up the list. As you erase the evidence of your thoughts, imagine those thoughts leaving your mind. In their stead, begin keeping a journal of affirmations (such as "I am worthy of a partner who treats me like a princess") or things you are grateful for ("I am happy I have great friends who love me"). Whenever you find yourself having negative thoughts, remember that they came from others, not from yourself, and make a conscious decision to let them go. With practice, you will find it easier and easier. You will also find that your confidence and happiness grow, along with your chances of finding a healthy, loving relationship.
Step three: Acknowledge challenges
Notice when those negative thoughts reappear. Despite your symbolic bonfire, the truth is that negative thoughts will inevitably rear their ugly heads once in a while, especially if you are having a bad day. Don't get upset when this happens. Instead, stop, notice what is happening, accept it, and move on. For example, if you are getting dressed for a night out and you feel frustrated by how your body looks in your dress, acknowledge it. For example, "I am really beating myself up right now. It isn't likely that my body looks any different than it usually does, so there must be something else going on. Maybe I am upset because I am feeling nervous about how this date is going to go." As you acknowledge these thoughts rather than fight them, you can take control of your own mind and release the tension.
Step four: Step out of your cycle
Make new traditions. You can't let go of the past mentally if you keep returning to it physically. If you feel stuck in a cycle of bad decisions, change your routine. Try a new spot on girls' night, or volunteer at a shelter in a new part of town. You can even try taking a new route to work. By physically forcing yourself out of the same surroundings, you can start a mental shift, too. Plus, you never know who you will meet when you leave your comfort zone.
Read more from Dr. Berman's new book, It's Not Him, It's You.