This week's question comes from Anonymous:
“Dear Orna and Matthew,
Why am I attracted to the wrong people? I am attracted to not only non-committal men but to mean, moody, and nasty men.
My father was mean, moody, and nasty. He yelled at me and called me names my entire life up until about three years before he died. Those are the same type of men I have chemistry with.
My last boyfriend was mean, moody, and often said hurtful things to me. I felt like a mere convenience and rarely stood up for myself. I broke up with him a year ago but am still hoping he’ll beg me to come back. We had such good chemistry, and he was so into me the first year when I wasn't so available because my daughter was still in high school and living with me. Once she went to college, I guess I became too available for him, and I didn't stand up for myself. I was such a doormat… and I so regret that. So I have two issues here: How do I stop beating myself up for being his doormat?
My main question is how do I change my attraction for mean, non-committal men? Men that I really don't enjoy spending time with but have this incredible chemistry with. Can I change who I have the spark of attraction with?
It can be heartbreaking when you discover that you’re attracted to the wrong people. It can feel like there is something wrong with you, and that you’re somehow destined to keep repeating this pattern. Why would you choose someone who would be mean to you, and harm you?
Once you understand the real reason you are attracted to the wrong people, you can take a new approach to find lasting love, one where you don’t just rely on chemistry and attraction alone.
You Aren’t Broken
Discovering that you are stuck in an unhealthy love pattern, may make you feel like you are somehow broken. We can assure you that you are not. As a matter of fact, the first step to breaking this cycle is to identify your unhealthy pattern, as well as its root cause. So, you have taken these first steps. Brava!
While your example may seem extreme, everyone suffers from a version of this dilemma. The need to heal the relationship with your parents through your romantic partnerships is universal. It is part of the human condition.
You grew up in a situation where healthy love was not modeled for you, so you don’t have an effective guidance system to show you how to create the love you desire. On some level, every person is not loved exactly as they desired in their family of origin.
This pattern doesn’t mean you’re broken, it simply means you are human.
Your Love Imprint® Has Defective Coordinates
Your Love Imprint is the subconscious program you have for love and intimate relationships. It includes your limiting beliefs, your mental/emotional patterns, and your behavioral strategies for giving and receiving love. It is formed in your family of origin and drives your choices in your romantic relationships.
When you’re an infant you have two emotional needs that must be met for you to survive and thrive in the world. You need to feel loved and safe. Your need for love and safety in your early childhood sets the coordinates of Your Love Imprint. You can think of it as your own personal GPS for love.
As a child, in order to get your needs met, you will take on any belief, behavior, or strategy necessary. For example, you learned in your childhood that you were more likely to feel loved and safe if you were quiet and didn’t speak up about your needs. You learned that it was safer to sacrifice yourself than it was to get your emotional needs met.
In your family, you also learned that love and rejection were connected. The rejection you felt from one of the most important people in your life is intertwined with the need for love and acceptance.
This childhood wound significantly impacts how you interact with others, and also determines who you find attractive as an adult. The strategies you used to cope in your childhood become the strategies you use in your intimate relationships.
Ultimately, you are attracted to the wrong people because they match your childhood wounds, and you end up repeating the same unhealthy pattern over and over again.
You’re Attracted To The Wrong People Because They Feel Familiar
You’ve already outlined the basic reason for why you’re attracted to the wrong people – because they are a match to your father. We call this a love imprint match — your subconscious mind highlights certain characteristics as feeling familiar and you interpret this signal of familiarity as attraction and chemistry.
Just as you have a physical homeostasis, you also have a behavioral one. Your body’s temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate need to stay within a narrow range for you to stay alive. The same feels true of your behavior. You could think of it as your relationship comfort zone.
Your subconscious mind recognizes a match to your childhood wounds and highlights them for you. It’s as if a signal goes off in your mind and body saying, “This is familiar! This is familiar!” Unfortunately, your subconscious cannot tell you if familiar is good or bad because its job is to remain aligned with the relationship homeostasis of Your Love Imprint.
Your body is producing adrenaline, increasing your heart rate, and making your breath shallow in response to the perceived threat. You’ve been misinterpreting those signals as chemistry, attraction, and love.
Your Love Imprint is highlighting mean, moody men and sending you a loud “This is familiar!” signal. You misinterpret that signal to mean excitement when it is actually a fear response. That’s why the attraction is so intoxicating and strong.
Your Fear/Excitement Trigger Needs To Be Recalibrated
The first step to changing this pattern is to avoid men who trigger this “danger/excitement” feeling. Rather than dive in head first when you experience this familiar signal, slow down and use caution. Start recognizing what you’ve believed to be chemistry as fear.
If you were to describe what love feels like to you, your description probably includes feeling off-balance, having obsessive thoughts, butterflies in your stomach, or inability to control your impulses. These are symptoms of a fight/flight response, not love and acceptance.
When you are attracted to the wrong people, you need to recalibrate how you think about attraction. Recognize the fear response attached to Your Love Imprint and avoid getting intimate with men who trigger those familiar feelings.
Don’t Choose A Partner Based On A Feeling
When you’re attracted to the wrong people, you’re putting too much emphasis on your feelings while ignoring potential issues. Attraction is important for love to last, but it isn’t the only ingredient. Putting too much importance on chemistry can cause you to miss the red flags right in front of you.
Right now, you are attracted to mean, non-committal men because they are familiar to you. If a kind, sweet man asked you out you would likely turn him down because he wouldn’t be charged for you like the other men you’ve described as mean and moody.
You have yet to experience being loved by a supportive nurturing man who cherishes and values you. Or what it would feel like to be with a man who is curious about you and your feelings and who won’t allow you to go into sacrifice.
In order for you to find a kind man attractive, you’ll first have to change your relationship with yourself in order to recalibrate your internal GPS for love.
The Love You Seek Is Inside Of You
The little girl who was raised by an emotionally abusive father internalized his criticism and, on some level, believes it to be true. If you were to meet a loving, nurturing man who was crazy about you, you would reject his love because it wouldn’t match your internal image of yourself.
You’ve stated that you beat yourself up about your choices. Does that internal voice sound like your father’s? It is common to take on the stories your parents tell you about yourself as true, even when it isn’t to your benefit to do so.
Another reason you feel a strong attraction to men who are emotionally abusive is that it feels familiar to the way you treat yourself. You’re attracted to the wrong people because they match your subconscious belief system.
It’s important for you to begin a practice of self-love. One of the first steps is to start speaking up for your wants and needs, as well as setting and keeping clear boundaries. Treating yourself respectfully will allow you to be attracted to a man who treats you with respect.
Developing Your Self-Esteem And Self-Respect Is The Key
A lack of self-respect causes you to tolerate people who don’t treat you with respect and deep-down hope that they will change for you. You end up doing things for others and wishing you’d have said “No” instead. Or maybe you find yourself apologizing for your behavior when there is nothing to apologize for.
Changing this pattern of being attracted to the wrong people begins by making agreements with yourself and sticking to them. Instead of dwelling on the men who have mistreated you, decide today you will treat yourself with loving kindness — no matter what. Even on your worst day, decide you will find compassion for yourself.
Change your inner dialog from beating yourself up and internalizing your father’s voice to one that is supportive, kind, and loving. You can become your own best friend, by saying nice things to yourself about yourself.
It’s time to forgive the little girl inside of you who was doing the best she could. Find compassion for all that you went through as a little girl, and now as a grown woman make better choices because you have more resources.
Don’t Put Your Lovability In The Hands Of A Stranger
You are the only one responsible for your lovability. Treat yourself with love and compassion. Focus on healing the wounds of Your Love Imprint so that you can find a better caliber of man attractive.
Wishing and hoping that someone will prove that you are lovable gives all of your power away and leaves you feeling insecure and full of regret. No one can give you love. You share the love you already have within yourself with another. Focus on growing the love you have for yourself before looking for someone to partner up with.
If you’re stuck in a pattern of attracting the wrong people, those who are unable to fulfill your needs, you’ll need to transform Your Love Imprint so you can look past those people and find a new way to do love. Your Love Imprint is your own personal GPS for love, and you won’t be satisfied without transforming this subconscious block. Take the first step by clicking here.
Orna and Matthew Walters are Soulmate Coaches who have been featured guest experts on Bravo’s THE MILLIONAIRE MATCHMAKER. They uncover subconscious blocks to love so that you can select an ideal partner to share your life with. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.