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The definition of the phrase “wrong partner” may vary, but it commonly includes personality traits and relationship ingredients that leave you feeling dissatisfied, anxious, angry, fearful, or drained.
When dating the wrong person, you may feel apprehensive about being yourself, sharing your perspective, and bringing up difficult topics (often out of fear). You may find that your partner is possessive, controlling, hot-headed, manipulative, or cold. The wrong partner may violate your trust, withhold love and affection, treat you disrespectfully, or exhibit other toxic relationship qualities.
You may also define the wrong partner as someone you don’t feel love or attraction toward or someone who doesn’t resemble the type of partner you feel would be the best fit. You may not be able to put your finger on exactly what’s wrong, but you can feel it in your gut.
If you find yourself picking the wrong partners over and over again or staying in unhealthy relationships, there may be aspects of your dating patterns, relationship behavior and history you haven’t considered.
The seven questions below are aimed at guiding you toward potential contributing factors. As you answer each question, be honest with yourself and look for patterns and clues.
Answer this question to learn more about yourself and potential dating traps (such as falling fast or moving too quickly) as well as to better understand what makes you feel attraction. This question is especially important because attraction often feels like a mystery.
Plus, undeniable chemistry can get the best of us and negatively impact our decisions around relationships and sex. Examine your patterns around attraction by reflecting on the traits you are most attracted to.
Also consider if the qualities you identified are more emotional or physical, and think objectively about the significance of each quality. For example, does your list of attractive qualities include mostly physical attributes or personality traits?
If you find that your list is more physical or superficial in nature, you may be picking the wrong partners by focusing too much on physical/sexual chemistry and not enough on the whole person.
And do the people I date turn out to be who I thought they would (based on my early impressions)?
Sometimes the traits we were attracted to in the early stages of dating can cause relationship problems down the line. For example, you may appreciate your new partner’s slightly jealous nature because it makes you feel secure and valued, but jealousy may also be a sign of deeply rooted insecurities and possessive tendencies that lead to trouble.
Even if you are flattered by a quality like jealousy, it’s essential to take red flags and early impressions seriously. If you notice that the people you date are not who you thought they were, it’s equally important to fine tune your ability to accurately judge a new partner so that you can make the best possible decisions.
You may find yourself in the wrong relationship time and time again if you don’t have a clear definition of what you are looking for. Without being overly-picky or rigid, it’s important to determine the type of partner and relationship you’d like.
Answer this question by writing out a list of “important qualities in my future partner” and “important qualities in my ideal relationship.” Let yourself aim high while also remembering that no partner or relationship is perfect.
Also, steer clear of getting fixated on specific physical attributes or qualities that are set in stone such as where someone went to school or where they grew up. (Newsflash: These things don’t ultimately matter as long as you are aligned in other respects).
Focus more on similar values and lifestyles plus qualities that make up healthy relationships.
Using your answer and lists from question three, consider if you are walking your talk. For instance, if you say you would like a partner who wants a serious monogamous relationship, but then date people who are only able to offer you something casual, there is a mismatch between your actions and values (what’s important to you). You may be playing it safe by dating familiar kinds of people even if they don’t offer you the relationship you desire.
For example, you may be staying in your comfort zone by dating men who are cold and don’t eagerly express affection because this is what your father modeled. You may crave a relationship filled with warmth and physical touch, but not know how to create this. Or maybe you want affection, but end up running from it because it is unfamiliar.
Therefore, you feel unsafe or uneasy. If you were used to feeling rejected as a child, you may be re-creating this experience in your adult romantic relationships. It’s important to understand your history and re-evaluate what you want, and then ensure you are going after it. This means being open to new relationship experiences and not entering the same types of relationships because they feel familiar.
The ways your relationships begin and end can represent helpful clues regarding the wrong partner selection. Reflect on how your relationships begin, including how you approach early dating, if you tend to fall into relationships or make intentional decisions regarding when to take things to the next level, and how physical intimacy fits in. How do you time physical intimacy and how do you approach relationship talks?
Next, examine how your relationships end, including everything from who initiates each breakup, the reason behind the breakup, and how you felt when the relationship ended. Consider if there are any patterns around your relationship beginnings and breakups.
For example, are you normally the one pursuing a potential match? Do you find yourself in bed with someone you just met (no judgement if you are looking for casual sex, but this may be a problem if you are looking for something long-term and well-defined)? Are you often rejected or are you the one ending things?
If you are the one most likely to end things, examine if you have a fear of intimacy. These questions may feel painful to answer, but are very important in getting to the bottom of what’s not working.
These questions will help you reflect on your beliefs about yourself. Understanding how you think and feel about yourself is key because you are likely picking partners who reinforce these thoughts and feelings. Feeling unworthy, undeserving or not good enough may be causing you to pick the wrong partners or stay in dissatisfying relationships. Having a negative sense of self can trick you into believing you are not deserving of a great partner.
You may stay in the wrong relationship if you are miserable being single, worry about judgment from others or fear ending up alone. When answering these questions, remember that insecure moments are a natural part of life. On the other hand, if you find you chronically feel down or bad about yourself, it’s likely that the way you feel about yourself is affecting your partner selection.
You may be automatically picking a specific type of partner based on your history, leading you down the same dead-end over and over again. Once you better understand your patterns and what may be causing you to pick the wrong partners, commit to dating people who possess the positive qualities you are looking for and not dating people who exhibit unhealthy qualities.
You are not on a search for someone flawless and perfect (this is an illusion), but you are looking for someone who is a better fit than your ex’s. You may notice that you feel anxious, confused, or ambivalent as you change your ways. Stay open and give people chances, especially if they don’t resemble your “type” or treat you in ways that are familiar.
For example, you may feel anxious if your new date doesn’t contact you nonstop after a couple of dates (especially if you are used to dating people who move very quickly), but this is a good thing. It shows healthy boundaries and an appropriate, respectful pace.
Hopefully the above questions help you better understand yourself, your history, and your patterns. If you realized you are placing too high of a value on physical attraction, are attracted to unhealthy qualities, or have a poor self-image, know this awareness is the first step to healing and change.
It can take time and uncomfortable growth, but know it’s possible to not repeat the same relationship patterns and continuously end up with the wrong partner.