How do I feel hope after another failed relationship?

I just went through another break up. All the guys I date end up saying that they aren’t ready for a relationship and I’m wondering if something is wrong with me. I want to attract someone ready to have a relationship but the people who come into my life don’t seem to be.
Asked by Sum

Hi Sum, 

Thank you for your question. It can be so draining to find yourself caught in cycles like this. Not only do you have to go through the feelings of loss from the break ups that you have had, but it is so tough to be left feeling as though there is something wrong with you, or that you won't be able to find the 'right' partner for you. I'm glad that you've decided to reach out for support to break this cycle, and I certainly hope that my answer may be able to provide some clarity for you. I also consider it important to emphasize that there is not necessarily anything 'wrong' with you for these relationships not working out. However, there are ways that you can explore why you find yourself in such relationships. 

When finding yourself in a position where you're repeating similar patterns of behavior over and over again, the first step to breaking out of this pattern is to build your awareness of the warning signs. It would be beneficial to reflect back on the relationships that you have had. Asking questions like how did the relationships start? Where did you meet your partners? How were each of the relationships developed? What was it about your partners that caught your attention? 

Try to find as many similarities between the relationships as possible. The key word there is relationships - you're not only looking for similarities between the partners themselves, but the actual relationship dynamics that were at play. A couple of random examples could be that you may find that in all of your relationships, your partner initiated the first date, or maybe you find that your partners don't open up to you very easily. 

Once you've identified some of those patterns, they can act as 'warning signs' the next time you meet someone. The earlier you can identify that a partner is playing into the same patterns that haven't worked for you previously, the earlier that you can remove yourself from the situation. You may also be able to see more clearly when somebody is acting in a way that is different to your previous partners, which could be beneficial for you to explore. 

It may also be worthwhile to take this time to understand your own wants and needs from relationships. What is it about being in a relationship that you are seeking? What would you want this relationship to look like? What qualities are you looking for in a partner? Are these wants and needs something that you have previously felt comfortable communicating with your partners?

The more understanding that you have about yourself and your own expectations, the more clearly that these can be communicated to potential partners. Healthy relationships are founded on lots of communication with one another, and even at the very beginning of a relationship it is important to express your wants and needs to a partner so that both of you are on the same page. If you are worried about communicating your needs to a partner (or potential partner) it would be helpful to consider why this may be, and what worries you have about expressing your wants/needs in such a way. 

To break the patterns that you are in, you may also have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Finding new ways to meet partners can open up lots of different opportunities and introduce you to people that you may not have previously met. For example, if you tend to find partners on dating apps, you may want to try a singles night instead. A great way to push your comfort zone and meet others is to engage in a hobby that interests you - finding local groups/clubs (book clubs for example) is a great way to meet different people. Not only does it increase your own happiness and sense of fulfillment, but it can allow you to meet people that you can build a relationship with based on a common interest, which is a great foundation for a relationship. 

Alongside all of this is the importance of really taking time for yourself - spending time engaging in self care and taking the time to learn about yourself. There is a saying along the lines of "people get into relationships that they think they deserve". Is there a part of you that feels like you don't deserve better from your relationships? Or that feels like you wouldn't be able to attract a partner better than the ones that you have had previously? If so, taking the time to get to know yourself and spend time with yourself can be a great way of building your self-esteem, and re-discovering your value as a person. 

It is of course also beneficial to engage in therapy. Therapy is a place where you can explore relationship patterns in a non-judgemental space, with an empathetic person there to support you as you untangle this very complicated topic! 

I hope that this answer has helped in some way. As previously said - it can be so easy to fall into the habit of blaming ourselves when things seem to go continuously wrong. It is also easy to fall into the same old patterns, even ones that don't work for us or aren't healthy for us. I would encourage you to continue reflecting on this topic for yourself so that you can find a partner who is on the same page - and more importantly, a partner that you deserve!