There’s a reason you look back at some of your exes – hell, maybe all of them – and wonder how you ended up with them in the first place.
You were dating your wounds.
I know this because I’ve done it. A lot. I’d rather not tell you how many trauma bonds I created before this recent realization, but suffice to say they number more than a few. Some were fleeting, some lasted a while, but they all had something in common. I was unconsciously trying to use them to fill the wounds that I need to heal for myself.
If you’ve done the same, first of all, know that it’s totally normal. You were managing your best with what you knew at the time. Now that you are either just realizing your patterns or actively working to change them, you’re progressing forward on your self-healing path. You can’t change the past, and chastising yourself for it does nothing but waste your focus and energy.
The quickest and most exciting action you can take for yourself right now is to do some research on why this happens to so many of us (you are NOT alone!) and also to turn inward so you can understand your specific trauma history. It’s essential to examine both the broad overview of the psychology behind it and also the elements that make it uniquely your own.
Learn about inner child work, shadow work, re-parenting yourself, attachment styles, codependency, trauma bonds … there is such a blessed wealth of information in the world on these topics and many more. We are lucky to live in a time when internal wellness and mental health are taken more seriously than ever before. It’s up to us to continue the fight to normalize expressing ourselves and owning our mental health struggles.
Keep in mind that this work applies to any and all relationships, not only romantic ones. For quite a long time I thought my issues only involved my partners, but I’ve noticed lately that I also draw in friends who reinforce the disempowering narrative that I’ve carried with me since childhood. My work at the moment is to choose my circle wisely, setting standards and carefully deciding who actually deserves access to me. This is a crucial step for those of us who suffer from low self-worth and lack of boundaries.
The attempt to fill the void inside with the love and approval of others is more commonplace than you might think. Sometimes the most empowering move you can make is to reach out and find others who share your experiences. Support networks are important, no matter how independent you are. You will find validation and relief in the knowledge that you are far from alone.
With time, patience, and work, you can learn to love yourself enough to fill up completely on your own. Then when you choose a partner, it will be someone who can exist beside you as an equal, not someone you enmesh with from an insecure position of need and expectation. When you try to use another human to fill the space you must fill for yourself, you lose yourself. If that person leaves, you fall apart because you built your entire foundation on their back. It’s not sustainable.
If I can move from a place of self-loathing to a place of self-love and acceptance, I know that you can too. I believe in you. You got this.