While your initial instinct may be to say, “no”, take a moment to really think about it.
A really sweet male client came into my office a few months ago. For years he had been in bad relationships with women who didn’t treat him well. He was delighted to tell me that he had finally found a good match! But he had booked an appointment with me because he found he was picking fights with her. He was confused by his own behavior wondering why he was doing something that he ultimately felt was blocking his own happiness.
He knew this way of being no longer fit who he was. Yet he was still doing it out of habit.
Why do we do this?
Why do we get comfortable with being uncomfortable? What I have come to realize is that the why may not be as important as the STOP IT. I mean sometimes we have to move ourselves closer to the place where what feels good is what feels normal.
This shift takes some adjusting, of course. But if we give ourselves no alternative but to stop acting in ways that contradict who we want to be and how we want to live, then the we will adjust to feeling better and being in better relationships.
That client? He nipped the behaviors immediately and is still in his mellow, happy relationship.
The why? Well that came later. After he began the STOPPING of the bad patterns. He realized that much of what he learned was from what he witnessed growing up. And then again through several years of bad relationships. He realized that deep down he felt that he didn’t deserve more than a stinky relationship. The work he did on himself helped him to realize that he indeed was deserving. What came next was the ability to say NO to those relationships when they came knocking. That is the hard part.
The thing with STOP IT. Is that it tells the brain that you are not allowed to do whatever it is you are doing again. So for an alcoholic or addict it is stop using however you can.
For relationships it is a bit trickier. the stop it is simply trusting when you know someone is not good for you and escaping fast. But just like any addict NOT DOING the thing you are addicted to doing will give you physical or emotional withdrawals. You will have to sit with the uncomfortable feelings while the withdrawal and change take place. You are addicted to the bad feelings. So here are some ideas on how we get through that:
- Don’t act on your feelings. Don’t make calls, send texts or emails while you are experiencing the feelings.
- Distract yourself with something that won’t harm you or reach out for some support. You know, take a run, play with your kids, text a friend, listen to music, meditate, listen to birds…
- When it passes don’t go chasing the pain. Who knows you may get through it sooner than you think!
- When it comes back breathe some more.
- Read anything that will help you know that what you feel is okay and that you will get through this.
- Rely on your friends. Heavily if need be. They want you to be free of these bad patterns
- Keep telling yourself it is possible to be in a good relationship
- Put yourself in situations where people who are capable of good relationships are. If that sounds tricky just get out with people. Don’t hole up and isolate
- Know that this is the most important work. You being content, valued and loved is extremely important.
The goods news is that if we do not allow ourselves to be in relationships that do not feel good our body will eventually adjust to relationships that do. Just as the addict gets used to sober living, you will get used to healthy, happier relationships. The dirty secret is that life has enough drama even in the best connections so you will still experience ups and downs. They just won’t be so dehumanizing and destructive.
You are worth it.
Nicole C Weiss LCSW
- Phone: 619-318-5012
- Email: email@example.com