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A love therapist’s answer to why you keep falling for crappy people

For women who truly have terrible taste in partners, “love hurts” is their theme song. The truth is that there are good people out there who want to treat you as the amazing person you are but there are certain dating patterns that tend to lead you to the wrong kind of partners.

1. Mistaking codependency for love

Part of the work I do with unhappy-in-love people who wind up on my couch is to teach them what a healthy relationship looks like. If, growing up, you watched your parents battling and belittling one another, and otherwise engaging in power grabs and other lose-lose dynamics, it’s no wonder you keep gravitating to someone who will mistreat you. It’s normal and comfortable, albeit super frustrating.

I tell patients who have little exposure to positive coupling that a happy couple treats one another with love and respect. A happy couple works together to solve problems rather than blaming and bullying one another for the impasse.

If you meet a partner who leaves you feeling insecure, inferior, unloved, cowed — perhaps as your dad did to your mom, run the other way. That is codependency, not love.

More: How to be single — I wish I knew

2. Not believing you deserve someone better

If you have low self-esteem, the odds are higher you will win a multi-million dollar lottery pot than choose a partner who will treat you well. Your mantra is “I’m not good enough so this is as good as it gets.” But you are good enough.

If this isn’t your modus operandi, each bad partner is the same person with a different face and body. Your bad luck in love is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You turn yourself inside out to do everything you can to keep your Mr./Miss Awful from leaving, and make no demands on them to treat you well. This is not meant to say that it’s your fault by any means, but rather to convince you to find a way to see your self-worth.

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Until you start believing that you are deserving of someone who will call when they say they will, not blow hot and cold, and knows that if he/she breaks your rules, you will leave, the same pattern will occur.

Work at loving yourself and you will attract someone who will provoke you to tears of joy, not misery.

3. Thinking you can fix the wrong person

A trait of many women who consistently wind up with partners who hurt them is being drawn to a challenge. Specifically, they are drawn to the challenge of fixing a bad boy (or girl) thinking: It’s boring to be with someone who treats you like gold. Turning someone around, however, feels like the door prize. You must be amazing if you can make someone change their nature just for you.

However, that may not happen. People don’t change for someone else; they only change if that is what they want to do and are thus willing to put in the hard work involved. The reality is that, in most cases, when a potential partner tells you early on that they don’t believe in monogamy or gets bored easily in relationships, they are doing you a favor.

More: 7 dating lessons from Disney movies that still apply in 2016

4. You’re commitment-phobic

Why would someone who claims to truly desire a relationship keep dating people who are unwilling to commit? Because on an unconscious level she, too, may have commitment issues.

As soon as you start to develop a relationship with someone who is emotionally available, you start to feel suffocated. Or to get panic attacks. You wait and watch for new partners to trip up and show their true colors.

Once you become aware that you are terrified of becoming truly vulnerable to someone (a totally justified fear), you can begin to look at your fears instead of to be ruled by them.

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