“Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” When comedian Groucho Marx wrote this, he was expressing a peculiar, yet very common, human trait. A lot of individuals reflexively distrust people that truly appreciate them. As a therapist, I see this a lot in my client’s romantic lives. I see people defeat themselves by choosing a rejecting, unreliable or dishonest partner over one who is genuinely interested and open to pursuing a real relationship. For many people, it’s almost as if a partner who is eager and available is a turn off. But why is this?
Deep down, a lot of people feel they are fundamentally flawed, “not good enough.” Maybe you tend to assume there must be something wrong with anyone who truly loves you. So you are drawn to people who reject you or are somehow unavailable. If someone rejects me, it must be a sign of good taste!. Or maybe your insecurities lead you to fear a built-in expiration date for any genuinely connected, meaningful relationship. It’s just a matter of time before he or he discovers the “real me,” then this person will also abandon me! So one way or another, feelings of self-doubt and lack of self-worth steer you away from the ideal romantic partner. Time and again, you choose partners that never really have a chance of working out, thereby trapping yourself in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Maybe your parents were inattentive, critical or emotionally distant. You never felt that you truly “won over” your parents as a child, so you try to compensate as an adult. Unconsciously, maybe you’re drawn to partners with these same frustrating qualities because these partners function as stunt doubles for your parents. I never earned Mom or Dad’s approval, so I can instead earn the approval of Mom or Dad’s stand-in. Maybe you find something soothing or familiar about people who mistreat you in various ways. It’s emotional comfort food. It feels comforting because these people trigger old feelings from your childhood–only this time around you tell yourself you can make things work out differently. However, a rejecting partner ultimately tends to do just that: reject.
Until you make peace with yourself, exactly as you are, no romantic partner can heal your insecurities or resolve your past. The first step is to simply recognize your deep insecurities and your tendency to replay old family dynamics. As you simply watch these things play out in various areas of your life, you become increasingly aware of self-defeating patterns. Ultimately, it’s not about earning the right to be loved. It’s about learning to step out of your own way. It’s about letting go your exhausting addiction to relationship drama. It’s about finding your center and holding steady, confident that the right relationship will eventually grow from the fertile seeds of your self-awareness.