We all have that friend… you know the one. Every time they say they’re dating someone new, you cringe. You dread meeting their new beau, because their partners are always rude, mean, obnoxious, full of themselves, or even abusive.
And hey, that friend might even be you.
So what gives? Why can’t this person see that they deserve better? Well, there are a number of possibilities.
1. People seek out what is familiar. It may sound cliche, but it’s true; most of us choose partners that mirror a dynamic in our family growing up… even if that family was awful or abusive. People are just more comfortable with what they know, and it is human nature to seek out comfort. If people have spent enough of their lives around jerks, they may assume that all people (or all people they are attracted to) are jerks. They may just accept this as a reality of their life.
2. People self-sabotage. Sometimes, people feel that they are not worthy of a partner who respects them. They may believe they deserve to be treated poorly. They may be afraid that if they start a relationship with a kind partner, that person will ‘discover’ that they are ‘unworthy’ of them, and leave them. So they may never start the relationship to begin with. Or, they may start a lot of different relationships with good people, but find reasons to end them, to avoid being the one who is heartbroken.
3. People prioritize different things. Is it possible that the person in this situation just isn’t seeking a long-term partnership? Perhaps for now, they are happy dating lots of different people, and picking those people based on sexual attraction, fun, or other qualities (rather than kindness). Even though you might never choose the people this person is dating, maybe you have different priorities. Maybe you are interested in long-term partnership or marriage. Many people are, but not all.
Through self-reflection, healthy friendships and therapy, it is possible for people to expand their horizons and establish healthier relationships… if they want that for themselves. We, as their friend, parent, etc., cannot do this for them. They must choose this path. And until they do, your role is to support them. Share your opinions, of course, but more importantly than anything, be a shoulder for them to cry on, a listening ear, and a giver of lots of hugs.