We all establish relationship patterns, sometimes without realizing it. Even when you’re aware you’re doing the same dance (or experiencing the same frustrations) it can be hard to see things clearly from the inside.
Maybe one day you suddenly realize you’re doing all the reaching out. You text and call. You initiate contact. You come up with fun ideas for what to do together. It’s never the other person.
Or you realize you just can’t seem to get what you need no matter what you’ve done to make those needs known. It’s almost like you’re speaking a foreign language. If only you could feel heard. You try harder and get even less!
It could be you’ve loaned more money or paid for an outing or bent over backwards to help and had the same person fade or withdraw over and over. In your frustration, you realize they only surface when they need something. Next time they appear, you appreciate feeling needed, (and you’ve missed them) so once again you give, only to have them do the same thing when they get what they came for.
Your pattern might be something different entirely. Like the more you want connection and ask for it, the more she withdraws. Maybe the more you treat him like a child, the more irresponsible he becomes.
It can take time and insight to recognize relationship patterns.
It’s easy for other people to see what you’re doing. And not so easy to make sense of it or see it clearly when you are the one (or two) doing the dance.
Even if you recognize yourself in one of the above descriptions, (or any other recurrent pattern) it can be tough catching yourself in the middle of it. Besides that, from the inside of the dance you may think you look a whole lot different on the outside.
(Hint, hint, you probably DO look a whole lot crazier to other people, especially those who have witnessed the relationship pattern over and over and over. Remember, just because you look crazy doesn’t mean you ARE. You’re just stuck repeatedly doing something that’s not working.)
Avoiding your relationship patterns’ trap
Ever heard the sidewalk analogy? Your relationship pattern is like a hole in the sidewalk. At first, you just walk down the familiar sidewalk and fall right in.
You might wonder why it’s suddenly so dark and damp, pitiful, and well, kinda gross-smelling in there. But, it’s familiar. You’ve been here before. And the other person is down there in the muck with you. After slipping and sliding a bit, (or a lot) you each claw your way out of the hole, sometimes over the tops of each other.
Next time, you know the hole is there and MAYBE you find a way to go around it. But it’s like a magnetic vortex. You get scooped off your feet and fall down it again. Whoops!
Soon, however, you are recognizing the hole and you develop enough strength to resist its magnetic pull. You deliberately walk out and around it. (Cool!)
The real win comes when you recognize the sidewalk and find a different route entirely. Bonus: the alternate route not only avoids the slimy, slippery hole, it gets you where you really want to be a whole lot faster and without all the slime, stink, and muck of the hole, not to mention there’s zero clawing on the way out.
Shifting the pattern
Picking a different sidewalk requires some serious skill. Usually there are reasons that darn hole is magnetic. Most people need a map, a guide, or a coach watching from the outside who can help them see and understand the pattern, build the strength to resist its pull, and find a suitable alternate route.
Don’t do this alone. You already know falling into the hole is zero fun. There’s no need to spend extra time standing out there on the sidewalk arguing about which way to go.
I know it can be humbling to ask for directions. I know some of you even like your sidewalk. It’s familiar at least, maybe it’s comforting in some way, perhaps it pays off sometimes. (For example, when you beg for attention, sometimes you get it. When you chastise him, maybe he behaves for a bit.)
For some of you, admitting you need an outside perspective is the biggest hurdle. But you know the sidewalk you’re choosing does not lead where you want to be. You know you need directions.
Still, it can be a risk to trust someone else with your life and relationship patterns. You want your investment to pay off, not lead down another dead-end street. I get it.
You could ask any and every passer-by for directions, but a wiser approach is to get a good map. Better yet, hire a personal guide. Heck, you might even need a skilled coach to help you stay out of that hole.
I want to be that kind of effective help for you. Let’s talk and get you on a path that leads to the kind of life and relationship you really want.CONNECT