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Why Do I Keep Getting Attracted To...?

Falling in love again with Mr./Ms. Wrong.

Why do I keep getting attracted to alcoholics? Why do I keep getting attracted to emotionally distant men? Why do I keep getting attracted to emotionally abusive women? Why do I keep getting in abusive relationships? Why do we get attracted to the same issue again and again?

Falling in love is an unconscious act. We don’t get up in the morning and think “I’m going to go fall in love today.” No. It just happens. To us. It happens to us. In other words, it falls down out of the unconscious onto our conscious awareness. That deep longing, urgent, passionate love has been hidden up in the unconscious ever since we put it there as very young children. We put it there because it was part of the authenticity we hid in the unconscious because it was too vulnerable to be exposed in the raw. Sometimes we even put it there in response to parental neglect, abuse, enmeshment, abandonment or other like behavior, which first broke our hearts.

It’s been in the unconscious right next to, perhaps even mingling with, all of the other stuff that’s also in the unconscious. Things like unresolved feelings of rejection, abandonment, fear of punishment, deep woundedness. These things are in the unconscious because we didn’t want to know they were there. So, we repressed them. We pushed them away into the unconscious, while we lived out of an identity that didn’t include these things.

So, when we fall in love, when love falls out of the unconscious onto the conscious experiencing identity, it comes attached to these other issues that are also in the unconscious. Therefore, falling in love is an opportunity to get in touch with and begin to resolve some of these old issues—of which we can now become conscious.

But we tend to think that falling in love is a calling from the gods to marry the person on whom we’ve projected these intense feelings of love. And, indeed, once we meet a person with the appropriate compatibility, and who has developed the appropriate relationship skills, we can truly relax into a real comfortable and healthy intimacy with an adult who knows how to help us grow the relationship. But as long as these unresolved issues are there, we are simply going to repeat the dynamic that set these issues in place in the first place.

Andrea Mathews
Source: Andrea Mathews

The path we take to adult relationship too often starts with a deep shift in consciousness that happens in childhood. For example, when one is emotionally neglected as a child, she still has to figure out how to survive that. So, she might wear an identity in which she is generally apologizing to the world for existing, feeling guilty and responsible for the well-being of others, while simultaneously pushing the pain of that neglect into the unconscious. What that means is that when she falls in love she is likely to fall in love with someone for whom she can take emotional responsibility, but from whom she will receive another painful rejecting emotional neglect. She is repeating the pattern of emotional neglect.

The psyche does this in order to bring that history and those patterns into conscious awareness so that we can heal them. What we tend to do instead, however, is come to believe that finally we have found Mr. or Ms. Right and our longings are finally going to be fulfilled. In much the same way that we changed our real parents into fantasy parents by pretending that the problem was us, rather than realizing their enmeshment, abandonment, neglect or abuse, we fantasize that this lover will be all that we’ve ever hoped. When emotional enmeshment, abandonment, neglect or abuse happens again we are so familiar with this pattern of interaction that we hardly notice it. We just do with that neglect or abuse what we did with it as a child, repeating the pattern. It is only when this relationship starts to become painful to us, when we wake up to the pain that is there, that we begin to question. And it is then that we may begin to ask, “Why do I keep getting attracted to…?”

So, what can we do about this pattern? We can become conscious of and begin to heal all the old unresolved issues. Find a good therapist and get deeply honest with ourselves and with our therapist. It’s hard to admit that we never really felt loved by mothers or fathers or both. It’s hard to admit that we think that it’s our fault that they abandoned, enmeshed, neglected or abused. It’s hard to admit that we bargain with relationships that are not working, by telling ourselves that if we just tried harder s/he would change. But if we admit these things and begin to process through some of the feelings associated with them, we begin to transform from the inside out.

And best of all, the unconscious is no longer holding on to these unresolved issues. Therefore, the next time we fall in love, that love will not fall down on to consciousness attached to unresolved issues. Therefore, we are more likely to fall in love with someone with whom we can have a real relationship.