Princes turn into frogs and fairy tales turn into nightmares – our expert and heartbreaker explain why we always fall in love with the wrong people.
This question is often asked in my heart care practice in Hamburg. So also from Anna, who came to me a year ago. Anna, a very attractive, fun-loving, and professionally successful woman in her mid-30s, has been looking for a new partner for over a year. She is not looking for a flirt, but for a man with whom she can live and finally start a family. She has been dating via platforms for a long time. In some cases, this actually resulted in a relationship that ended after a short time. The supposed princes turned into frogs after a short time. “Somehow I always have bad luck. The search for a partner slowly seems like a game of chance to me, but I always only pull the rivet, never the main prize.
Why do I keep getting to the wrong person?
Anna is not alone with her problem. On the contrary, she is in good company with many other singles. It is not for nothing that the most diverse dating platforms are booming.
I am now firmly convinced that we do not end up with the wrong person by accident. On the contrary, we are always deliberately looking for the wrong person. At first, everything seems to be very consistent, but later it turns out that the person we fell in love with tends to make us unhappy, and in the worst case even harm us. Why is that?
A few years ago I came across the psychologist Rachel Heller and the psychiatrist Amir Levine, who were scientifically researching relationships with precisely this question. The two Americans have come to the realization that almost everyone can be assigned to one of three relationship types. Basically, they assume that our attachment behavior and above all our early relationship histories have a significant impact on our behavior when looking for a partner and our everyday relationship. The relationship experiences we have in the first three years of life are formative. Even as adults, we unconsciously repeat what we experienced as children.
What type of relationship are you in?
But back to Heller and Levine: They differentiate between three types of relationships: Safe, fearful, and avoidant. I have dealt with this model for a long time and find it so convincing that I now use it in my coaching practice with great success.
1. The fearful relationship type – This is about insecurity!
How does the anxious relationship type tick? In short: He needs a lot of closeness and worries whether his partner loves him enough. He tends to please others and therefore adapts very quickly. Own needs and ideas are often put on hold. But be careful: the fearful relationship type can also be really stressful. When he feels rejected, he tends to protest.
2. The avoidant relationship type – love at a distance
What makes the avoidant relationship type tick? He often equates affection with the loss of independence and relies on distance. Sending ambiguous signals is characteristic.
3. The safe relationship type – closeness welcome
What makes the safe relationship type tick? He feels comfortable with closeness and is able to lead stable partnerships.
The traces of the past – our bonding system influences our choice of partner
Could you find yourself in one of the three types? Anna found out in the coaching process that she is an “anxious relationship type”. We took a close look at Anna’s childhood and found that as a little girl she had to fight for her mother’s love. Even as a young child, she always had the feeling that she couldn’t please her mother. Only when she maximally adapted to the wishes and ideas of the mother did she get the love and attention she longed for so much. In short: little Anna learned very early that adaptation and good behavior are answered with love. To put it in the language of psychology: Anna was not securely bound as a child.
Attachment patterns that we develop in childhood are almost 80 percent likely to come into play when we grow up. This is also the case with Anna: With an almost sleepwalker certainty, she has always fallen in love with “avoidant relationship types”. The men Anna is attracted to were all outwardly very attractive and professionally successful. They radiated self-confidence and strength – qualities that Anna lacks. But these men were also emotionally distant from the start and were very keen on their independence. Anna felt no love and closeness. As well as? This has led to great unrest and even panic in the “fearful” Anna. The more the men withdrew, the more Anna tried to do everything “right”. She constantly felt To have to fight for attention and care – just like when you were a child with your mother. Anna – of course without knowing it – repeated her early childhood relationship pattern. In the end, the men were annoyed by their attachment and Anna was deeply frustrated – another sad end to a relationship.
Love is like a puzzle. We fall in love with what we lack
The combination “fearful-avoidant” is actually very common. Anna is a good example of this. She unconsciously looks for men who have what she lacks: autonomy. Conversely, Anna is also perfect for these men. She is very pleasurable, her partners can live out their distance behavior well in this relationship. Such a relationship can last well for a while, but it is characterized by strong insecurity and dissatisfaction. The core conflict in these relationships is the topic of “distance – proximity”. Anna realized this during coaching.
How do I find the right man?
Anna was becoming increasingly insecure and panicked: Telephone terrorism, controls, confrontations – her reactions became more violent. But now the ominous game really began. An avoidant type of relationship cannot be “captured”, something my client also had to experience painfully. The more she demanded, the more her partners withdrew.
And now? Anna’s need for closeness and connection are part of her being and cannot be talked away. I worked with my client on a change of strategy and encouraged her to accept her needs and to express them clearly to her dating partners as early as possible. She developed an early warning system in several sessions so as not to slip back into old relationship patterns. Their clear communication has meant that some men have quickly made off again. But what the heck: those weren’t the ones who are good for them either. Putting energy in here is ultimately wasted time.
Change your loot scheme
Instead, we looked more closely at the “safe relationship type”. This is exactly the type of man who is good for Anna and who she needs. He is reliable and gives her the security she needs. The only problem was that Anna always found these men very ugly. For them, they belonged more to the “buddy or good friend” category. Great to talk to, but kind of boring too. As potential partners, she quickly sorted out these men. Anna automatically interpreted the lack of tension as a lack of attraction. It is just not that easy to get rid of a longstanding habit and develop a new prey scheme.
This is how the frog becomes a prince
Regardless of whether the relationship type is fearful or avoidant – we are who we are, and that is a good thing. Negative reviews are not helpful and inappropriate here. We can all live a good and fulfilling partnerships. It is important that we recognize what we really need in relationships in order to feel good. Do I need a lot of closeness or more distance? Be honest, get on your own trail, and please don’t waste time with partners who are not doing you good.
How did Anna go on? Anna “relapsed” a few more times. It took her a while to really understand her relationship pattern. A few weeks ago she called me again. She had met a man who was very different from all his predecessors. Anna described it to me in detail. He actually seemed to belong in the “secure attachment type” category. Anna was still a little restrained; she still couldn’t quite believe her luck. She wants to take her time and this time take a very close look. That seems like a good way to go. I hope and wish her very much that she will find her prince.