Why You Attracted the Wrong Partner

Whether you're still in an unhealthy relationship, or you have just exited one, you may be asking yourself, "How did I attract someone so wrong, when at one point it felt so right? How do I know my next relationship won't be just as bad?"
12/04/2015 04:58 pm ET Updated Dec 04, 2016

Whether you're still in an unhealthy relationship, or you have just exited one, you may be asking yourself, "How did I attract someone so wrong, when at one point it felt so right? How do I know my next relationship won't be just as bad?"

The answer lies deep within you, and it is directly rooted to a void or emotional injury that happened during your childhood. Severe childhood trauma can also have a deep impact on our romantic partnerships.

So here's why you attracted Mr. or Ms. Wrong, and why you may continue to do so:

You subconsciously have chosen your romantic partners to fulfill a void from your childhood.

Sound too heavy? Hear me out (because it actually makes a lot of sense)...

Children need to be loved unconditionally, and not on certain conditions. That means a child should be loved no matter what she does wrong, no matter how she behaves, and no matter whether she is unruly or painfully shy. But unfortunately, that isn't always the case. A parent can often reward the child for behavior that the parent wants, not what the child is naturally conditioned to do. Over time, the child learns to receive love for the wrong reasons, and her relationship with that parent may feel strained, empty, and detached. This awkward, unresolved relationship creates a pain (or void) in her heart that goes well into her adult years, often unrecognized.

And so when she meets her mate, she is unconsciously looking for closure from the parent that wounded her. She becomes attracted to someone who resembles that parent, hoping that she will get the unconditional love that she never received as a child.

So at the time of your rendezvous, and during your courtship, the relationship felt magnetic, and for once in your life, you felt "complete." All your life you have been looking for that unconditional love you should have received as a child, and now you have found it in your partner. And damn, it felt good.

But as you may have experienced, your partner began to portray the same unloving behavior as the parent, and so the painful cycle continued. The void within you grew deeper, and you were always resentful of never getting that love - and it seems like such a simple request, doesn't it? You may ask your partner, "Why can't you just love me - give me respect, trust, and your time?"

Here's an exercise: think of key behaviors your mother or father portrayed to you when you were a child, and those that were hurtful. Examples:

  • Passive aggression and using guilt as a way of making you change your behavior or action
  • Emotionally unavailable - rarely showing affection
  • Unloading their problems or emotional baggage on you, making you feel guilty for things that were never in your control
  • Inconsistent affection - one day you received love and praise, and another you received negativity, or digs at you for the smallest things.

These are just a few - but hopefully these give you ideas.

Now, take the one or two top behaviors and see if they can be found within your romantic partner (or your most recent partner).

Do you see any startling revelations?

Have you found yourself trying to fix these issues within your partner? And with no success of fixing, do you feel hopeless? I bet the wound that you tried to close via a relationship is now more open than ever. You may feel lonely, and perhaps think you'll never meet someone who can truly give you a fulfilling relationship.

But, here's the good news - not all is lost! It means you still have some learning to do - and your partner was there to teach you that. Your relationship has shown you that you deserve more for yourself, that you are allowed to have boundaries, as well as a partner who is emotionally available and consistent!

To avoid repeating the same kind of relationship with another, you must make peace with that inner child of yours, as she is still calling the shots in your romance department. You may need to also forgive the parent who disappointed you, so that you don't look for closure elsewhere.

I always have this saying: 1+1 does not equal 2. It equals two ones.

That means a partner should never complete you. The relationship shouldn't change your equation - together, you're not another number. You should go into the relationship already feeling whole, without the need to have that person heal you.

Jerry McGuire had it all wrong. Whenever we expect anyone to complete us, it is a recipe for disaster.

Lindsey Ellison is a relationship coach and founder of Start Over. Find Happiness., a coaching practice that helps women navigate through their uncertain relationships. She offers guidance in divorce, breaking up, and how to start a new life for single women. To learn more, click here.