You’ve had bad relationship after bad relationship and can’t figure out why things always seem to go down the same road.
If you recognize that pattern, you could be a relationship masochist.
Although it’s not a clinical term, experts agree that relationship masochists continuously choose partners who disappoint and mistreat them – and such relationships ultimately fail.
The behaviors become so ingrained, it’s almost a way of life, says Drexel University psychologist Dr. Chuck Williams.
So why do you do that?
“There is also a sense that they feel mostly blameless and victimized by their (consistently) poor choice in a partner.”
Experts say the bad choices are a means of avoiding loving, caring relationships. Relationship masochists perhaps feel they don’t deserve to be in a healthy relationship and sometimes engage in self-sabotaging behaviors to ensure failure.
“A relationship masochist will deliberately provoke and solicit rejecting responses from their partner to feel hurt, humiliated and defeated,” says marriage and family therapist Dr. Karen Ruskin.
Typically, we choose partners who reinforce and validate how we see ourselves.
The self-sabotaging person doesn’t understand or believe they can really be loved by someone. When the relationship ends, it further validates what they feel: unlovable, experts say.
“If pain, negativity and destruction are all they know, the familiarity and constant drama could give them a false sense of comfort,” says relationship expert and cupidspulse.com founder Lori Bizzoco.
It’s human to gravitate to the familiar as it provides a sense of stability, even if the familiar is hurtful, adds Dr. Ruskin. “The [masochist] can’t just walk away from a bad relationship because it is known territory.”
So how do you break the unhealthy cycle?
Try being single
Work on yourself and self-esteem before trying to find a mate again, says therapist and author Kristin Barton Cuthriell. “The relationship is only going to be as healthy as you are.”
Bizzoco suggests being single for six months to a year. “Once you have a better idea of what kind of partnership you deserve, and feel good within, that’s typically when the right one will come along.”
The person who repeatedly enters bad relationships needs the wisdom a therapist brings to the table, says Dr. Ruskin. “This includes treatments such as identifying triggers that lead to poor choices and surrounding yourself with a healthy, positive environment.”
Commit to changing
Stop sabotaging yourself, look within and make a change, says Cuthriell. “Remember, if you always do what you have always done, you always get what you have always gotten.”
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