Problems in Dating People Similar to You
We have problems dating those craving emotional support and those who shun it.
Posted Nov 21, 2019
In dating, we often find people opposite us to fall in love with. By opposite, I mean attraction to people who have patterns opposite to us in the giving and receiving of emotional support. If we are accustomed to giving emotional support, we are attracted to possible mates who like to receive support. If we were raised to expect lots of emotional nurturance from others, we look for someone to do that for us.
We respond emotionally to those we are closest to because we react with automatic emotionally conditioned responses. This takes place outside our awareness and causes problems because we don’t think before responding. We react on autopilot.
We learn emotional patterns of relating as children, as Homer B. Martin, MD, and I discuss in our book, Living on Automatic. . The patterns stay with us as we get older. We call this learning “emotional conditioning.” Some of us seek out people to give emotional support to. Others of us look for people to emotionally support us. These two types of people with opposite emotional patterns in relationships usually find one another for dating. A good giver of support finds a good taker of emotional nurturance.
Occasionally we find romantic partners who have the same emotionally conditioned makeup as us. One emotionally supportive person finds another. Or one emotional consumer finds another. How do these relationships turn out?
Two people expecting a large amount of emotional support
When two people in a relationship both expect to receive a great deal of emotional nurturance and are unable to give much support to the other, sparks fly. Such couples have on-again, off-again relationships with frequent friction, arguments, and emotional blow-ups. Periodically one partner may leave the relationship and find emotional support elsewhere. Frequently such support comes from friends, extended family, or coworkers. After several days he or she returns to the relationship and the cycle begins all over again, only to lead to the next emotional blow-up and fallout of the relationship.
Commonly, neither person examines the situation to determine the problem and solutions for it. We found these emotional blow-ups occur because each person wants his or her way in the relationship. Each wants to be the most important, to be catered to, and to be indulged. Neither wants to be emotionally generous to the other. They are two peas in a pod. They both vie for top-dog status as to who can get the most from the other.
Two people accustomed to giving emotional support to others
Two people accustomed to emotionally supporting needy people have their own set of difficulties in relationships. You would think this would be a relationship fraught with less difficulty because each person is capable of emotionally supporting the other. But two problems crop up.
One problem is that both people are not comfortable with receiving emotional support. To some degree, they shun other supportive people. The other person may meet displays of comfort, affection, or kindness with anger and outrage, “How dare you think I can’t handle this or do this on my own.” One person may flee the relationship during these times or may even leave permanently.
The second difficulty is that unconsciously, each person perceives the other as not needing support. Each holds a perfectionistic standard of, “You’re like me. I don’t need much support so you don’t need a lot of emotional support either.” Both judge the other by their standards for themselves, without awareness of what they do.
They fail to act supportively with one another when it is needed. They become hypercritical and nitpick one another. Both think they have the perfect way of thinking or doing things. Both think they are superior to the other. Too much criticizing may end the relationship.
People could head off a lot of trouble in dating relationships if they discovered three things.
One would be to discover the type of emotional conditioning you had as a child and how it has been unknown to you but ruling your life the whole time. This would allow you to become familiar with how you automatically respond emotionally to possible mates.
Two would be to learn how to spot the emotional conditioning of others. This would help in creating improved romantic relationships. Then you could tell the difference between those expecting lots of emotional nurturing and those expecting little.
And three, you could discover what each person has to do in the relationship to make it work—when to give or take support, how much, and from which person. Two people expecting high levels of emotional support must each discover ways to give support to one another. Two people accustomed to emotionally supporting needy people must drop their perfectionistic and hypercritical demeanor with one another. They must discover how both to give and receive support with one another.