Are you and anyone you know caught up in cycles of abandonment? Why do people keep repeating the same patterns over and over? What can they do to break free?
One common pattern I call "abandoholism." You're alone because you are attracted to the unavailable. When someone comes along who genuinely wants you, you feel turned off and push him or her away.
If you're abandoholic, you pursue the "hard to get." You're addicted to the high stakes drama of unrequited love. If the person isn't an emotional challenge, you don't feel the proper dose of love chemicals.
When you're in a relationship with someone hard-to-get, you feel hooked. You're on a dangerous precipice of abandonment, but you can't resist trying to win them over. You strung out on insecurity and feel like a junky in need of a fix -- a love fix.
As painful as this roller coaster is, you are just not attracted to the "nice guys." Unless someone kicks up your primal fear of abandonment, you don't feel turned on. Insecurity has become your aphrodisiac.
Another common pattern is something I call "love-challenged," a close cousin to abandoholism. Someone who is "love challenged" can only feel love when they are in pursuit mode. They treat you wonderfully when they're chasing you -- when the relationship is new and the connection tentative -- but as soon as they're sure of you, they lose love feelings.
Or maybe you are the one who is love-challenged. You have difficulty feeling love unless you are on the chase.
Those who are love challenged rarely realize they have this deficiency because they blame their lack of interest on their partner's deficits. They can only tolerate the relationship during the infatuation stage. Infatuation is a highly volatile state destined to go up in smoke as soon as the relationship becomes real. Infatuated feelings medicate us from an empty, love-starved part within us- a part that tries to fill the empty hole by chasing the hard-to-get.
Being love-challenged is very difficult to self-diagnose, because who wants to admit to having trouble loving? It's easy to disguise the problem by telling yourself that you haven't met the right person. It's hard to see that the inadequacy lies within yourself.
How does someone become abandoholic? What makes them love-challenged?
Several factors: Unresolved abandonment issues stemming from childhood, the quality of the relationship to your parents, and teenage heartbreaks -- may have conditioned you to equate insecurity with love. You only recognize love when someone lights up your old emotional circuits of neediness and deprivation.
Abandoholics have crossed love wires. When you're attracted to someone your fear of abandonment sets in. When someone likes you your fear of engulfment kicks in. Anything in-between fails to register on your emotional scale.
How to break out of these patterns?
Step 1: Recognize that you have this problem, an enormous step. It takes rigorous honesty to admit that even if the right person came along, unless he or she made you feel a little insecure, you wouldn't feel attracted.
Step 2: Face how futile it is to go through life being attracted only to the unavailable. Owning this creates a turning point.
Step 3: Be rigorously honest with other people you trust. Honesty helps your higher self to emerge -- a higher self no longer willing to remain stuck in this pattern.
Step 4: Recognize that you are not alone in being alone. Millions of people are caught up in patterns that bar them from love. In our culture, the problem is epidemic.
Step 5: Only you can break this pattern. Own the problem.
Step 6: Breaking a vicious cycle like this one involves making significant internal changes. There is a way out, but insight alone won't change it. Be prepared to actively work on change.
Step 7: Become involved in abandonment recovery, attend abandonment workshops or ongoing support groups or find fellow abandonmates or therapists. Friends and sponsors can help, as can recovery tools like journaling.
Step 8: Reevaluate your old belief system. Many of your values about who is a "good catch" stem from junior high school. Consider what mutual love is and what kind of mate is capable of it. Throw out your outdated kid stuff.
Step 9: While you're at it, identify your old faulty values and vow to discard them. Actively challenge these deeply ingrained emotional habits in your journal, group, and therapy.
Step 10: Seek not romance, but relationship. Mature love involves reciprocal caring, trust, respect, and commitment. Get off the roller coaster and find someone capable of commitment.
Step 11: Be realistic. Change won't happen overnight. You're body is conditioned to feel turned on only when you are in pursuit mode. Its love wires are crossed, but over time you can retrain your body to respond positively to mutual attachment.
Step 12: What to do when you slip back? Growth is always slow, steady, and sporadic. Just get back on track. Progress not perfection is your motto.