Mike Hennessy: This is Mike Hennessy and on behalf of the team at LoveEvolveandThrive.com, I’d like to welcome you to today’s interview with Dr. Pat Love. Dr. Pat Love is a distinguished professor, licensed marriage and family therapist and long-standing clinical member and approved supervisor in AAMFT. She has appeared numerous times on Oprah, The Today Show and CNN and has authored/co-authored six books; four workbooks and numerous professional articles. To know more about Dr. Pat, visit her website www.patlove.com.
Dr. Pat Love, thank you for joining us today. It’s always a pleasure to speak to you.
Dr. Pat: Glad to be back.
Mike: Dr. Pat, one of the most common issues we hear from women is their frustration with attracting the wrong man over and over again. Can you offer some insights on why this happens and what women can do to overcome the problem?
Dr. Pat: I sure can, Mike.
First of all, rest assured, we’re all attracted to the wrong men and the wrong women for that matter.
So – and think about this, if you lined up a thousand people that were all intelligent, attractive, age-appropriate individuals, none of us would expect all thousands of those people to be a really good mate for us. We’d be lucky if even what, 5%, would be a good mate for us.
And so, you’re bound by the numbers game to meet a lot more people to whom you’re attracted initially but not necessarily compatible with and that will make a good mate for you. So the key is to say we’re all attracted to the wrong person but the question is, can you leave once you know it’s the wrong person? And sometimes you know in the first hour.
I have a friend who tells a story of going to this lovely – she was in a hotel and she thought, “Well, I’m going to go downstairs and have a glass of wine.”
And she went downstairs and she was having a glass of wine. She saw this handsome stranger across from her sitting at the bar and she thought, “You know what? I’m an assertive woman. I’m going to send him a drink.” She sent him a drink and he thanked her and he came over and started talking to her.
And she said, “As soon as he opened his mouth, I knew it was the wrong person.”
The key is, we’re all attracted to this wrong person.
You can be attracted to them but the key is, can you get out once you know it?
Can you politely excuse yourself?
Because the longer these relationships go on, the more attached you become. So just know it’s normal to be attracted to the wrong person.
But once you get in a relationship and you know it’s wrong, your friends have probably been telling you it’s wrong for quite some time but the key is having the strength and the courage and the support to get out because it’s normal to be attracted. It’s normal to get in.
But the key is once you know, “This isn’t a right fit for me,” instead of staying far too long, you have to have the courage and skills to get out.
So you say, “Well, why would a person stay when they know it’s not right?”
Well, number one, part of it is denial.
Many of us as early in our life have to deny how bad it was. A lot of us have a childhood history like mine that had struggles, had abuse, had neglect in it. And so, we have to develop these coping strategies. And one of my coping strategies was, “You know, it’s not that bad. It’s not that bad.” I also kept very, very busy and said, “You know what? I can take care of myself.” I became very independent.
Well, these very coping strategies that save our life early in life often become inconvenient in adulthood.
So if we just deny the fact that, OK, he doesn’t have a job, he doesn’t – had never worked steadily for more than six months at a time, and the truth is, he’s abusive not only to me but to people around him, we can be in denial of that and we can take a little – one little good attribute. I call this taking – making a banquet out of crumb.
You take one good attribute like he’s a great kisser or we have great sex or I love who I am when I’m with him, but he’s so generous with me or he’s so much fun.
We take that one little attribute and we deny all the rest and we try to make a banquet out of the little bit of crumb that we get with this individual.
So denial can be one of the reasons why we stay too long with this wrong person.
Another thing is sometimes it’s a BTN, better than nothing.
Oh my goodness, if I’m not with this person, that means I’m going to be alone. Or, what if I never find anybody else? I know he’s not really the right person but you know what? He’s better than nothing. At least I would not be at home on Friday night or Saturday night. And then you become frustrated with yourself and you lose the courage to really go for somebody who is a better match with you.
The other issue is a lot of times, people stay because they’re just outright lonely.
I wrote a whole book on Never be Lonely Again. And it tells you – it points out 5 different areas in your life.
If you know who you are, if you know how to make relationships work not just love relationships but if you have the skills and you can learn these skills, how to make relationships work, if you’re invested in your community, if you belong, if you get out of the house, if you help other people, if you volunteer, if you are part of a greater, larger organization or religious or spiritual group or athletic group, if you’ve been out and about and you’re part of a community, and also if you’re using the talents that you have in meaningful work, may not be the job you have but if you’re using your particular talent to help somebody else, then you’re living out the purpose of your life.
And if you’re doing this by the activity, living out the purpose of your life, being true to your core values, fostering and nurturing the friendships and family relationships that you have by showing up, paying attention to other people, understanding other people, and caring for other people and investing in your community and having work that’s meaningful, then you’re living a meaningful life.
And guess what?
A meaningful life, having this fuller life outside of a love relationship is prevention for being in the wrong relationship.
Because when your life is full then you can have this courage and this feel to regulate your own fear or anxiety or embarrassment about walking away from a relationship that you know is wrong for you.
You have the internal support to walk away and the courage to walk away, because love is all around you. What you were seeking is also seeking you. But you have to have the courage to say no to the wrong person in order to be able to say yes to the right person.
Let me just say one more thing.
If you know you’re in a relationship and you’re thinking, “Uh-oh, here I go again. I’m having the same pattern. I’m having the same unfortunate pattern. I feel the same frustration with this relationship that I felt before. I don’t feel like – I feel like I’m being neglected or I am unhappy or I’m frustrated or we’re always having these big arguments or outburst or whatever.”
If you’re having these feelings and these signs or even if your friends are saying, “Can’t you see the pattern you’re in it again?” then what you have to know is you shouldn’t be being affectionate or having sex with this person because having sex and having affectionate, which is that touching and kissing and making out and being sexual produces oxytocin.
Oxytocin makes you bond with the person, makes you trust even a untrustworthy person, it makes you more protective of that relationship, gives you so much pleasure just in the moment not down the road.
And so, you’re protective of a relationship that you know is wrong for you and you can’t even take your own good advice or the advice of your friends.
So the key is to get support, to build life so it’s full so that you can have the courage that when you meet the wrong person, and there are so many of them out there, either attractive, entertaining and fun, we’re all attracted to these people. The key is having the courage to walk away and walk toward the love of your life.
Mike: Dr. Pat Love, thank you. So much to chew on in just a very short period of time. I hope everyone enjoyed our conversation today and got a lot from it. Thank you so much.
Dr. Pat: Pleasure.
Mike Hennessy: And this is Mike Hennessy. And on behalf of the team at LoveEvolveandThrive.com, I would like to thank you for listening to our interview with Dr. Pat Love and we wish you the very best in your relationships.
For free tips and insights on relationship advice for women from hundreds of experts and authors, please visit our website at www.LoveEvolveandThrive.com.