Changing Familiar Relationships

It’s often stated that opposites attract – and perhaps there is some truth in that – particularly when you look at the polarity of masculine and feminine energies. But when you keep ending up in the same kind of relationship with a different person it’s because there is something familiar – or even familial – about them.

Our brain is attracted to what is familiar. Repeated exposure to certain types of people increase our attraction towards them. On a subconscious level, there’s a sense of safety in what is known. Even if it doesn’t serve us.

I grew up with an alcoholic father and continued to date men with substance abuse issues as a young woman. Even though those experiences were extremely traumatic for me – I continued to do it because on some level it felt like home. Chaos felt normal. This is why it’s so difficult for people to leave unhealthy relationships. No one wants to be treated so dismally, but it’s easy to become enmeshed in these relationships and the link it gives us to the past.

I thought I was so damaged and broken – that I didn’t have it in me to have a good relationship – so I gave up having them for a decade. I finally realised it was simply a pattern of behaviour. A connection to my past. That my brain was just doing what was familiar. So if it is a pattern of behaviour and a pathway in our brain – and our brain is plastic, malleable – therefore I could change it!

That revelation gave me the impetus to create something different. To become familiar with kind, with certainty, with respect. To familiarise myself with relationships that were supportive, inclusive, equitable and fun!

The first step is to become aware. To recognise the similarities in previous relationships and if they’re familiar to any relationship from your upbringing. What are the red flags? How would you recognise them in any potential new relationships?
Sometimes this is tricky – the thrill of a new love can get us out of our logical, rational mind. Sometimes the new person can seem so different – and it’s not until we’re already enmeshed that we see the similarities. This is why being fearless and ruthless in your relationship history is vitally important – so you can get crystal clear in what those familiarites look like and recognising how they showed up in the very beginning.

The second step is to make a commitment to do things differently. This is important. Not only an internal commitment – but a verbal and written commitment. Get accountability with this – from a trusted and honest friend or a coach. Speak it out. Write it out. Make it crystal clear.

For example:

I…(name)….commit to creating a genuine, authentic loving relationship based on my needs now. I commit to saying no to the old familiar and becoming familiar with authentic genuine love. I give…(name of accountablity partner or coach)…permission to remind me of this commitment if necessary.

he third step is to get clear on what you want and don’t want. We’re not talking about looks or money so much as character. So looking at your red flags from the first step you can begin to formulate 3 must haves and 3 must not haves!

It might look a little like this:
3 must haves:
ability to joyfully commit to a loving relationship
a generosity of spirit (kindness, acceptance, loving)
emotionally intelligent

3 must not haves:
active addictions (drugs, alcohol, cigarettes)
lack of personal responsibility
non committal

The fourth step is to create familiarity with new types of relationships. This can be difficult if you’ve not experienced or seen this kind of relationship! I struggled with this – I didn’t see the kind of relationship I thought might be possible around me. So I trained my brain to become familiar with a genuine, loving relationship through my imagination! You can strengthen neural pathways through imagining and feeling what you want to feel.

For example, I created a regular ‘date night’ where I cooked a nice dinner, played music and immersed myself in the experience of what it would be like to be loved and accepted by someone who was secure in himself and emotionally intelligent. I trained myself, through imagination, to become comfortable and familiar with how being loved, accepted and committed joyfully to would feel like. I immersed myself in the feelings that would evoke – as if they’d already happened.

The fifth step is to stick to the plan! As you date – be aware of the old familiar feelings and politely step away from those people. Remind yourself that the little bit of discomfort you might feel at that stage is worth it to receive the best for yourself at a later date.

The sixth step is to trust the process – be aware of your intuition – recognise if the person you meet triggers the old feelings or the new!

After being single a majority of my adult life I created this process and recognised the man I married as someone who was so different to the old ways and so intune to what I imagined. I am still 7 years later, stunned at the joy and effortlessness we experience. We still do ‘date night’ dinners every week and commit to each others growth and expression.

I hadn’t seen a relationship like that before – I am sure they were around but as they weren’t ‘familiar’ to me, my brain didn’t recognise them.

You have this ability too. You can create a healthy loving relationship. You don’t have to be stuck in the same old cycle.

If you want guidance through this – get in touch. Let’s make your next love a thriving one!