Why is it always so easy to identify destructive patterns in other people’s lives, but when it comes to recognizing our own, it’s just not that obvious.
For example, I can see clearly that a friend of mine, who has had nothing but problems with her relationships, goes through the same struggles over and over again because all the men she falls for are unavailable. While she agonizes over the fact that they don’t communicate effectively or won’t commit the way she wants them to, it seems abundantly obvious to me that it’s because she chooses men who are married, engaged or living halfway across the world. They are literally unavailable to her.
Recently, struggles in my own relationship have led me to start noticing a particular pattern that I keep reliving, too.
The pattern is this: I’m in a relationship with someone I love dearly, and someone with whom I get along on a daily basis. We enjoy each others’ company and share many of the same interests. We rarely fight, and in fact we are both quite averse to conflict. On the whole, daily life is peaceful and content at the surface level.
But deeper down, something is missing. There exists a longing for a more meaningful connection. The ability to communicate about problematic areas is difficult at best, or lacking altogether. Or perhaps it is the confidence to communicate about sensitive issues that is lacking. Either way, the result is that specific needs are not met and over time, the persistence of these needs leads to frustration, then anger, then resentment. Eventually, a sense of resignation settles in, and a choice must be made – either live with the situation, or don’t. But be prepared for the consequences of either choice.
I know this pattern well because I’ve been there before and I recognize it emerging once again. It’s a scenario I went through in my marriage over a period of many years, and it eventually led to divorce. Now, three and a half years into a serious relationship, I can see it happening again, but fortunately, it’s not far enough along to cause permanent damage. What I need to do is stop the pattern BEFORE it does any permanent damage.
In order to do that, I have to figure out WHY the pattern is happening.
Once again, it’s often easier to have clear insight into other people’s lives than it is to understand our own. In the case of my friend who chooses unavailable men, I’m pretty sure that her constant gravitation toward those who are married or living overseas has something to do with her relationship (or lack thereof) with her alcoholic father. But maybe she, too, is unavailable.
I recently read that the issues we face in relationships mirror an aspect inside of ourselves that we may or may not recognize. So if you choose unavailable men, it could mean that in fact, you too are unavailable. But that might not be so obvious to you.
For me, the pattern I’m experiencing with lack of communication likely starts with me. If I blame my partner for an inability to open up, is it possible that I, too, struggle to communicate openly? And if so, why is that?
Taking Ownership of Your Pattern
Asking these questions helps to give some clarity on why a certain pattern repeats in your life:
- What is the biggest thing that holds you back from getting what you want (in a relationship or otherwise)?
- If you’re not getting what you need from others, is it because you’re not giving it?
- How can you take responsibility for the situation? How can you own and/or provide the missing ingredients?
- What is one thing you could do yourself to start to resolve the problem?
This line of questioning led me to an ah-ha moment that helped me break through a barrier that was preventing me from getting what I want in my relationship. It was a small barrier, but a good first step to recognizing how to stop the destructive pattern I know so well.