Q I know on one level that I find them more interesting, exciting and a challenge, but I really thought I’d outgrown all that. I want more! Why can’t I find a man who’s honest, reliable, trustworthy, and who wants to spend quality time with me and not be secretive about his life. I’m so tired of all the games and I want to find a good man to settle down with. I’m 35 years old now and I want to find a life partner and to become a mum. What am I doing wrong?
A What bait are you using? What message are you giving out about what you want and how you expect to be treated?
Let’s not forget that men can have the same problem too if they’re attracting high-maintenance, game-playing drama queens!
My first intuitive response is to wonder about your ‘attachment style’. That is, the way in which you emotionally attach to other people and how you feel and behave in their company.
If we haven’t learnt to feel secure with the people closest to us when we were growing up, as adults we then continue to play out this uncertainty, anxiety, fear of abandonment, and the need for the high-adrenalin dramatic relationships (which invoke these familiar childhood feelings in us).
If our parents were intrusive, smothering, neglectful, or downright abusive, the little kid deep inside us finds it hard to trust anyone, or to know how to relate to the good people who can treat us well and respect our boundaries (assuming we’ve created healthy boundaries that serve us well).
Instead we stick with what we know and repeat familiar patterns – perhaps, like you, in the hope that they will miraculously change all by themselves.
Admittedly when we’re young and enjoying the ‘drama’ of the familiar dysfunctional relationships we don’t have a thought for the future or how compatible we would be in the longer term.
Things come into clearer focus as we mature, particularly from the age of 30, when we want a different ‘life-script’ but have no idea how to create it. Things can seem hopeless.
The good news is that insecure attachment styles can be changed – with self-awareness, firm decision, patience… and the (all important) right partner.
Mature love brings us feelings of safety and security, the freedom to show who we truly are (as far as we’re aware), to have mutual attraction and affection, and to really value and respect one another. No games. No drama. No projection of blame, shame or criticism. No crazy neurotic arguments. No hostility. No name calling. No secretiveness. No aggression.
Can you imagine being in a relationship like that? How ‘alien’ would that feel for you?
The first step is to have this type of easy, respectful and nourishing relationship with yourself. Then you’ll begin to feel secure in your own skin, and to like who you are, and to feel proud of all that you have to offer in a relationship.
That will then become the template for the next romantic and intimate relationship you attract to you – with someone you can grow with, and learn to have a secure and rewarding future together.
Remember that it’s not one-sided or all about you and your needs. You’ll both be learning and growing – just without the games and drama hyping and de-stabilising everything!
Decide if that really is what you want – then set about creating it!
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)