Many men and women know the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result) and in spite of this knowledge, they continue to date or marry the same type of person while expecting a different result.
Most therapists who have been practicing for a few years are familiar with this pattern. Usually those individuals who practice relationship insanity only enter therapy because they are in intense pain and they are desperate.
Often a man will enter my office (since most of my clients are women) for relief from her heartache rather than to gain insight into his problems. Most of these women (men too) want their circumstances to be different, but they often don't want to change their behavior that is contributing to their pain.
What A Pattern Really Means
During a session it is very common to have such a client nod in agreement when I point out WHY they are having trouble and then leave the session and repeat the same behavior. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be funny.
What a good therapist is supposed to do is learn from their client’s history in relationships and help them identify their particular pattern. The primary pattern reveals what the person believes about themselves and others.
If he has a history of cheating, then his internal believe might be: "I can't trust a woman so I'll leave them before they leave me."
If he has a history of violence, his internal belief might be: "I will never let someone make me feel out of control again like I felt when I was a child."
When these patterns are pointed out the person (man) has a choice. He can...
A) Believe that he is an innocent victim who is powerless over their current circumstance (usually regarding a romantic relationship). Their hope is that I will be able to help them identify the “mistake” they made with a particular man and tell them exactly what to do to fix the relationship.
B) Take the courage to see what his pattern is telling him he needs.
If he doesn't choose option B, then most of the time he is doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes with men.
This concept became vividly clear to me years ago when I worked as a Group Therapy leader in an inpatient hospital setting. In my group there were all types of individuals who found themselves overpowered by their day to day life and in need of healing.
I began to notice that within my group there were many women who were involved with men who were alcoholics. Their stories were different and yet they all had an eerie pattern of familiarity. They found the men "exciting" and felt an instant "chemistry" and couldn't understand how the same man could turn out to be so mean, insensitive and hurtful.
As their time in my group progressed some of these women found the strength (although temporarily) to begin setting limits with or even leaving such abusive men and when they did the group cheered their courage.
Fast forward 2 months. In nearly ever case the same women who had left their abusive relationship would begin dating someone new. He was different they assured the group and in many ways the new man in their life was different until they had dated him for a few weeks or months and seemingly out of nowhere, the same abusive traits of the former boyfriend or husband began to manifest in their new boyfriend.
I saw this pattern repeated so many times that I stopped counting. Usually by the third relationship I and the group had enough "evidence" to show the woman in question their relationship pattern with men.
It wasn’t that they intentionally sought out these type of men, but a subconscious belief was attracting them to these type of men based on their low self esteem. Those that were willing to pay more attention to patterns rather than intense feelings were able to date different type of men and ended up with a wonderful marriage.
Those who insisted that all they needed to do was find the right man were destined to continue their downward spiral indefinitely regardless of the amount of relationship advice or intense therapy they undertook.
Do you know your relationship pattern? Do you know what the men you have dated have in common? It won’t be obvious, but if you take some time you will be able to see a pattern and if you don’t like this pattern, you can change it.
When a person is willing to learn from their mistakes by accepting responsibility for their patterns, they then have the ability to change those patterns which in turn produces wonderful results.