by Andrea M. Darcy
Frustrated by your inability to attract a healthy relationship? And plain tired of being alone?
Recognising the issue might stem from you is a powerful first step. It means you are past the stage of making yourself a victim and blaming everyone you date, or telling yourself the disempowering fib that ‘you just haven’t found the right one’ yet.
*Of course there is no law that says everyone must be in a relationship! But the issues below will also be the same ones making relating with colleagues, friends, and family hard, too. So keep reading.
7 Psychological reasons you can’t find a good relationship
1. You have unhealthy programming around what a relationship actually is.
If you want a good relationship but have never really seen one up close and in action, then how would you recognise it if it was standing right in front of you?
If you grew up in a home with, say, parents who hated each other and were constantly fighting or cheating, or a single parent who was scared of relationships, you just won’t have any inbuilt understanding of relationships.
Instead you are likely to have unhealthy ideas around relating that actually encourage you to choose badly or push people away, or Hollywood-movie expectations that mean you can’t recognise real love.
2. You own a set of core beliefs that keep connection at bay.
Growing up with no healthy relationship role models creates a set of unconscious assumptions about yourself, others and the world are called ‘core beliefs‘ in psychology. These hidden beliefs you mistake for fact will be buried in your unconscious but driving all your decisions and behaviours.
For example, if you grew up with one parent controlling and threatening the other, you will have the core belief that love is unsafe. You are likely to also choose relationships that are ‘dangerous’. Even if a partner is not physically violent, they might constantly criticise you, or refuse you any real emotional support. Or, you will avoid all love and connection in order to be ‘safe’, but instead lead your life in a state of constant loneliness and depression.
3. You are suffering from what is known as ‘attachment issues’.
Attachment theory states that as an infant it is crucial that a child receives protection and emotional support from a primary caregiver they can ‘attach’ to and trust.
If you had a parent or guardian who could not offer you such a stable platform to grow within, either as they were mentally unwell or unwilling to be a parent, then you will grow into an adult with issues in relating to others (read our piece on attachment and relationships to understand this more).
4. You are secretly terrified of intimacy.
If deep down you are terrified of loving and being loved, then no matter how wonderful another person is your fear of intimacy will see you sabotaging the relationship. Or you will tell yourself “I don’t want a relationship”, or “I don’t need other people”. And yet you are probably tired of being alone. Studies show again and again that we are really pack animals – we thrive when connected and suffer when not, via loneliness, depression, and even early death.
5. You have unresolved personal trauma.
Sure, you can tell yourself ‘the past is the past, I live in the present“. Or you can protest what happened in your past ‘was no big deal’ and didn’t really affect you. But if you are unable to attract and maintain healthy relationships and there was any turmoil in your past then you are likely kidding yourself.
It’s important to remember that even if your adult mind now sees what you experienced as ‘minor’, your brain processed it from a child’s perspective.
So sure, your father passing away suddenly when you were five was beyond anyone’s control. But your child’s mind felt abandoned and responsible.
As for sexual abuse, it’s now recognised that it doesn’t even have to involve physical touch to be abuse. “Non contact” abuse still results in longterm psychological struggles for the victim.
6. Your self-worth setting is on very low.
The idea that we have to be entirely confident and full of self-love to be in a healthy relationship is just not true. The point of relationships is to learn and grow together, not be perfect together.
But it is true that low self-esteem that is consistent, pervasive, and stems from difficult life experiences does leave most people unable to be accepting of love and care. If at heart you simply don’t believe you are worthy of love you will consistently choose relationships that are unsupportive and confirm your negative core beliefs about yourself.
7. You lack any real sense of self.
If you grew up in an environment that taught you that that you have to be certain things to be loved (good, well-behaved, smart, tidy, quiet, etc) then you will most likely be an adult who chooses their behaviours on how others react instead of on who they themselves are.
You will be a codependent people pleaser, and you will lack personal boundaries and be unable to say no to others. In many cases you won’t even have clarity on how you think and feel most of the time, and will struggle with decisions.
How does this block good relationships? It’s hard for others to love something when it is unclear what they are loving. Lacking a sense of identity will also make you unreliable, needy, and anxious – not exactly what most people are looking for in a partner, unfortunately.
If this sounds like me, then how will I ever be in a healthy relationship?
Unresolved issues don’t vanish in a day. They require bravely delving into all that you are and not giving up on the process of inner growth. You must commit to the path of healing – but if you do, you can and will see results.
Starting with self-help books and research is helpful.
But the path forward is faster if you seek support. This can be in the form of a coach or a counsellor or psychotherapist who deals with intimacy issues and relationship difficulties. They can create a safe space for you to recognise what needs to be resolved and what you truly desire for yourself moving forward. And they can keep you on track with taking action steps toward finally being loved and loving.
Harley Therapy connects you to qualified and friendly therapists in three London locations, or from wherever you are in the world via online therapy.
Andrea M. Darcy is a leading mental health writer. With training in person-centred counselling and coaching, she is also a therapy advisor, helping people understand what therapy could work for them and plan their therapy journey.