When People Choose The Wrong Partner

This is my own personal opinion, borne out by many clients I have encountered.  I haven’t heard it from other therapists, and it certainly is not the usual explanation given in my profession. But it is my opinion:

When we are small children, we all need love, and we need it consistently. We need love that is intelligently given, so that, for example, as children we are  given age appropriate challenges that we can master – thus building or self esteem.  We also need to be loved just for existing, for being our parent’s pride and joy because we lie in our beds at night breathing.

Most people don’t get the kind of love they need. Many have parents completely unable to love them. When we grow up we still need that love we didn’t get. The longing to be loved  doesn’t go away just because it is time to move out of the house.

So we wind up picking someone as a partner who has enough of the attributes of the parent (or combination of parents) that they “feel” like the parent  we most still want to be loved by. In essence, we are picking a psychological stand-in for that parent. And then we work really hard to get that person to love us. But – because we are so good at picking stand-ins, we have picked someone who can’t love us either.  Often, because it really is the parent this partner represents to the child in us, this hurtful partner is hard to leave.

Many battered women fall into this category, and the sad thing is that if their parent was abusive they may have repressed any memory of the abuse ( for self – protection) and still pick people capable of abusing them.  When they hear this possible explanation, they can’t apply it because (1) they  have forgotten the abuse, and/or  (2) their denial of their parent’s cruelty keep them from acknowledging it. People want to believe they had good parents, otherwise their view of their childhood and their parents falls apart, leaving them with what feels like”nothing” to hang on to, to be their base.  They “lose” their parent.

This makes it hard for them to do successful therapy and strengthen themselves enough to leave an abusing partner, or one that simply is not well suited to them. I have found, however, if the therapist will  address whatever the person needs right now in therapy, then this in itself strengthens them to the point where they able to remember, work through whatever childhood issues they need to and make sense of their lives and their previous choices.  Best of all they are now free to choose a partner who can love them, as they deserve.

2 thoughts on “When People Choose The Wrong Partner

  1. My problem is that the man in my life grew up without any loving parents & doesn’t know how to love in return. I was married before to a wonderful man who passed away @ 52 from cancer. I met this other man online & thought he was a family oriented person. I found out otherwise. I have 3 children & one grandchild that I am very close to. My children mean more to me than he does. That’s just the way it is. Our kids always came first with my late husband and I. He has been jealous that I have this close of a relationship with them. He doesn’t with his sons.
    I have been living with this man for 10 yrs. He controls a lot of things I do and I just want some say and freedom in this relationship. Lately I have had to give him ultimatums in order to get some cooperation. I know he is afraid I will leave him, but right now I don’t care anymore. I am not working because he wants to travel. So I have gone along with that. But I need to go back to work till I can get Social Security in 2 yrs.
    There are many underlying things with him. He has ADHD, is “always right” among other things. The last straw was criticism of my youngest son. He’s upset because he won’t get a job where he wants him to. My son has 2 jobs and is completely happy with them.
    Any suggestions???

    • Beth – You’ve been putting up with a lot of bad treatment for a long time. Controlling men frequently want to “own” their partner and are good at manipulating the partner to keep them tied in tight, and being erosive to their partner’s self esteem, which also works in keeping the partner tied into the relationship. His having reasons to stop you from working sounds like all of what I am speaking to.
      You might try figuring out what it is that you are getting from this man that is good for you. I suspect – very little. I would strongly recommend therapy, either for the two of you or for you alone. In my experience, once the work with the therapist starts to loosen the hold ,in your case, that your husband has on you, he will leave therapy and try to get you to leave also. Individual therapy would be good for you. Remember who you were before this relationship and make up your mind to get that self back.
      Your husband has more problems than not knowing how to be loving. His jealously of relationships that you have that you rejoice in shows his self centered need to possess (own) you for himself. You need to stop going along with taking care of his needs instead of your own. Get a good therapist – someone who sees the problem for what it is and knows how to help you get free.

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