Attracted To The Wrong Guys?

Do you keep falling for men who turn out to be bad news? Here’s how to break the cycle.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

s your “type” the type who’s emotionally unavailable? Do you find his irresponsibility irresistible? Is it hard to deny a guy with a wandering eye? If you find yourself repeatedly attracted to a Mr. Right who’s all wrong, it could be more than just bad luck.

Maybe you’re dating the wrong guys so you can avoid making a commitment. Perhaps you’re picking poorly so you have an excuse to break up with him before he can break up with you. Or could it be that you enjoy the drama or attention that comes from serial breakups?

Whatever your reason, you’ve gotten into a pattern. Now that you’ve admitted it, you have to decide if you want to continue keeping true love at arm’s length, or if you want to embrace your issues and start dealing with them.
Do you love the thrill of the hunt, or do you prefer being hunted?

If you choose to deal, you can break these bad habits with three not-so-secret weapons, says Los Angeles psychotherapist Sheila Newton, Ph.D., M.F.T.:
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-validation and acceptance
  • Self-confidence
Step 1: Becoming self-aware
Start changing your patterns by being honest with yourself about what really motivates you. “Be explicit about what you really need,” Newton suggests. For instance, think about why you’re dating: For fun, for a diversion or for a long-term relationship? Do you love the thrill of the hunt, or do you prefer being hunted? Do you ignore red flags because you want to keep the relationship going? Being clear on these points is crucial.

“If you’re looking for a mate, but you date men who are just in it for fun, you’ve got a problem,” Newton says. “If you like being pursued but make the first move to ‘help it along,’ you may end up attracting someone who prefers to be pursued, too.”

And if you try to keep relationships going when they’d be better off ended, you’re wasting your time. “A relationship’s not worth saving if it drives you nuts or pushes your buttons,” Newton says.

Step #2: Finding self-validation and acceptance
Next, the key to learning from your past is to review what worked in your past and what didn’t. Don’t beat yourself up about it, though.
Self-awareness also builds confidence, which helps you avoid settling for less than you deserve.
Instead, be glad you’ve got it figured out and then set to changing your behaviors.

Undertaking this kind of self-improvement can be tough to do alone. Friends and family might be able to help. “Ask close friends to give you feedback,” Newton says. They probably spotted that nasty pattern long before you did. And they’ve usually got some advice on how to break it. At the very least, most of them are willing to help.

“I had a buddy system with my friend Al,” recalls Marcie Dunn of Pittsboro, NC. “I gave him carte blanche to point out when I was falling back into bad behaviors. It really helped having someone calling me on it.” Got a deeper issue? Seek professional help.

Step #3: Summoning your self-confidence
Maybe the ultimate habit-breaker is learning to like yourself as you are. “So often, we’re focused on having the other person like us so we put on a façade that keeps us from being ourselves,” Newton says. “Instead, try being realistic. Don’t be afraid to say ‘This is who I am — take it or leave it.’”

How will this help you choose better guys? “If you know what you’re about, your instincts will react positively or negatively to people you meet,” Newton says. “Figuring out how to listen to your instincts is a great pattern-breaker.”

Self-awareness also builds confidence, which helps you avoid settling for less than you deserve. “Once you know where you’re coming from and where you want to go,” Newton concludes, “you’re much more likely to attract someone who brings out the best in you and gives you what you want and need.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a writer based in North Carolina and the author of How To Be a Better Writer.
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