3 Common Mistakes That Keep Us Stuck In Unhealthy Relationships


Do you ever wonder why, even though you swore you’d never date somebody like THAT again, three months later you’re doing exactly that? It’s like you’re a satellite missing the booster rocket you need to get out of the gravitational pull of that particular planet of NOPE.

Here are three common mistakes that keep us stuck in unhealthy orbits in our relationships (and lives):

1) We try to get away from what we don’t want instead of moving toward what we want.

As Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith says, “Pain pushes until the vision pulls.”

There’s no shame in being motivated by pain to change. It’s a compelling motivator! But if you’re only trying to get away from what you don’t want, your focus is still on what you don’t want, which will tend to recreate it.

That’s why swearing you’ll never date THAT type of person again is almost sure to bring someone like that sauntering into your life with an irresistible smile.

Getting clear about the type of person you’d be thrilled to date begins to build the booster rocket you need to shift your orbit. Better yet, becoming the person your ideal partner would want to date gets you lift-off. Without getting too woo about it, if you begin to radiate the qualities you’re looking for in another, the person who resonates with those qualities can find you, like when you buy a teal car and start seeing teal cars everywhere.

The more you put your attention on what you want instead of what you’re leaving behind, the more power you build to carry you through the lag time until it shows up. You’re also less likely to slip back into the old orbit, however tempting the pull, when your focus is on where you’re headed.

2) We ignore our inner knowing.

My ex-husband and I were best friends and created a great life together but were also incompatible in a few significant ways. We worked hard in couples’ therapy and attended couples’ retreats to improve our connection, but always returned to a dissatisfying baseline.

I eventually developed hypothyroid and adrenal exhaustion, ending up mired in self-hatred and exhaustion. I could barely move, had no libido, and slept for 10 hours a night. I left the house less and less, withdrawing from much of our social life.

Then I went away alone on a scuba diving trip to Indonesia. While I was there, I had plenty of energy. Instead of needing 10 hours of sleep, I slept five or six and was fine, even while doing three or four dives a day.

I wanted so badly to stay married that I’d turned my unhappiness inward and tanked my health rather than admit to myself how broken I felt.

When I came out of the brain fog and exhaustion on that trip, I saw that it wasn’t that I was incapable of being happy in a relationship, it was that I was unhappy in this one. Six months later, after we were clear that we couldn’t reconcile our differing needs, we split amicably and went on to find better-suited partners.

When you hit a major roadblock and decide to communicate authentically and vulnerably, you invite the same to emerge in your partner. You may deepen into a new layer of your relationship or end it, but you’ll be true to yourself, which is what matters most.

3) We have a limited idea of what we can have.

Until I believed I was capable of showing up in a relationship at the depth of connection I wanted, I attracted men who wouldn’t go there. Because of the work I’ve done to increase my baseline of what I deserve, I can see the kind of men I used to date coming from a mile away and step aside to let them pass.

All change is uncomfortable for the subconscious. It will do anything, even sabotage, to bring you back to the familiar. Like crabs in a barrel, the parts of you that aren’t on board with change pull you back to the place they feel safe, even if that place is killing you.

If you want something different, figure out what you would have to believe about yourself in order to have it. Then reverse engineer how to develop that belief. It helps to have a coach guide you through this precise, surgical work.

Two and a half years ago, the love of my life demonstrated his willingness to meet me. As we started dating, I respected his need for space. I didn’t freak out and trusted he’d come back if it was right. A few months in, I realized that the shadow side of my giving him space was a fear that he’d run if I showed up with the full force of my love and desire. I said, “I’m going to love you and you’re going to have to increase your capacity to receive it. I’m not going to hold back anymore to keep you comfortable.” He took a deep breath and said, “Okay.” A couple of days later, he expressed a desire to move in together and we’ve lived together ever since.

While our relationship isn’t perfect, it has a foundation of ease that I’ve never had before, even when we’re in a challenging growth phase. It’s as if, instead of walking barefoot on sharp pebbles and cursing at the unpaved road, I’ve learned to put on shoes.