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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Emotionally Unhealthy Relationships: Bad Luck or Poor Choices?

I remember having a conversation with a friend, several years ago, who told me, "I have the worse luck when it comes to relationships with men."  After a few tumultuous relationships, she started therapy to deal with the emotional aftermath of the last unhealthy relationship.  During the course of her self exploration, she discovered that luck had very little to do with her chaotic relationships with men.  Instead, she discovered that, on an unconscious level, she was choosing men who were emotionally abusive and very irresponsible.

Emotionally Unhealthy Relationships:  Bad Luck or Poor Choices?
There is Big Difference Between Having Bad Luck and Making Poor Choices
There is a world of difference between seeing yourself as the passive victim of bad luck and realizing that you're responsible for choosing the unhealthy relationship that you're in.  And, it was quite an eye opener for my friend.  Once she accepted that this was her reality, she knew she needed to work in therapy to discover the underlying issues so she could stop making these unhealthy choices.  And it didn't take long to realize that she was replicating her parents' relationship in her own relationships--even though she swore from an early age that she never wanted to have a relationship like the one  her parents had.  This speaks to the power of the unconscious and how we often don't realize what forces are driving our choices.

Feeling Like You Deserve a Healthy Relationship
What was more challenging for my friend was to realize that, deep down, she didn't feel like she deserved to have a healthy relationship.  She understood on an intellectual level that she was "a good person" and, therefore, she deserved a healthy relationship.  But, on a deeper emotional level, she didn't feel it.  It took time and effort in psychotherapy for her to overcome these feelings so that, eventually, she did make healthier choices.

Whenever I hear a psychotherapy client (or anyone else) say they've always had "bad luck" in relationships, I think of my friend's story as well as so many other stories I've heard in my experience as a therapist.  No one likes to think that they're in their current unhealthy relationship due to a choice that they've made.  Of course, there is an element of luck in terms of the people you meet but, more often than not, when someone remains in a dysfunctional relationship, they're making an unconscious choice.

While some people are open to exploring that they're making a choice, other people totally resist it, no matter how compassionate and empathetic a therapist might be.  They feel blamed and criticized.  More importantly, they feel ashamed, and when there is a lot of underlying shame, a therapist must have the client's trust and she must proceed with as much tact as possible.  But the therapist can't avoid dealing with this situation altogether--otherwise, how would the client make progress?

If clients are able to overcome their shame enough to look at their choices, the next dilemma they face is what to do about it.  After all, once this unconscious choice is made conscious, if they remain in an emotionally unhealthy relationship, by virtue of being aware of it now, they're making a conscious choice.  There might be some back pedaling along the way.  But, if a client develops a healthier sense of self, he or she usually wants to be treated better and the current relationship is no longer satisfying.

Do You Have a Pattern of Being in Emotionally Unhealthy Relationships?
If you have a pattern of being in emotionally unhealthy relationships, you owe it to yourself to consider if it is really bad luck that you keep getting into these relationships or are you choosing, on a level that you might not be aware of, these unhealthy relationships.

This can be one of the hardest questions that you will ever ask yourself, but it can also be the start of turning your life around.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me:

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