Some of us may be more prone to it than others, but falling for the wrong type of person can be easy to do—and in the worst-case scenarios, downright traumatic. As it is, relationships are hard, and arguably more so in today’s world of online dating. People often misrepresent themselves on dating profiles, and connections can seem tenuous and superficial when texting is the main form of communication.
Even so, if your problem is falling for people who are not right for you, there are things you can do to address and overcome the issue. Just ask Dr. Sachi Ananda, PhD, LMHC, MCAP. Dr. Ananda is the director of Shatterproof FHE Health, our specialized treatment program for first responders. What many may not know is that she is also a sex and relationships therapist, in addition to being trained in trauma therapy.
What follow are highlights from our interview with Dr. Ananda. Our interview covered a range of themes, including Dr. Ananda’s tips for reflecting on past relationship patterns, identifying red flags and unhealthy patterns, clarifying personal values and relationship goals, setting healthy boundaries and prioritizing self-respect, and seeking support and guidance for healthy relationship choices.
Reflecting on Past Relationship Patterns
There is the saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We asked Dr. Ananda if she could suggest some guidelines for evaluating past relationship patterns, with a view to breaking the negative patterns….
Breaking Negative Patterns
What things should one look for when reflecting on past relationship patterns that might help to break any negative patterns?
“Look for times when your heart was broken,” Dr. Ananda said, before offering the following advice:
Were there similar qualities and characteristics of the people you were with? Review the average length of time you spent getting to know the other person before either having a sexual relationship and/or making an exclusive commitment to them. If the average length of time is short, consider what made you jump into the relationship so quickly. Evaluate your childhood development. Did your parents or other important adults show you how to have a healthy relationship, including being able to deal with conflicts directly and showing love to their partners? If not, evaluate the bad relationship patterns you may have inadvertently adopted.
The “Wrong Types of People” to Avoid?
Reflecting on our past relationship patterns is one helpful source of wisdom, but it also helps to have a working definition of “the wrong type or types of person.” Dr. Ananda divided these into two categories. First, “if you are looking for a long-term, committed and satisfying relationship, the ‘wrong person’ would be someone who has different goals or a different lifestyle and values.”
“Major differences in any of these areas can be an ongoing source of conflict, disharmony and discontentment,” Dr. Ananda said. She cited the cliché, ‘Opposites attract,’ to help illustrate how two people might find their differences “exciting at first” but over time discover those same differences to be “exhausting” as they strive “to keep a strong connection with each other.”
The second category of “wrong people” to avoid are the “toxic” ones: “People with certain untreated personality disorders—antisocial, narcissist, and paranoid personality disorders—would not only be toxic but also potentially dangerous,” Dr. Ananda said. She went on to briefly describe the characteristics of each of these disorders:
- Antisocial types manipulate, exploit, and violate the rights of others.
- Narcissists lack empathy and are unable to think of anybody except themselves.
- Paranoid types have deep distrust issues, are suspicious of others for no reasons, and keep their guard up.
Dr. Ananda qualified these comments by saying that “nobody is perfect, and everyone has their flaws … The difference is whether the person is willing to get help for these issues and maintain healthy behaviors for their recovery from these disorders.”
Identifying Red Flags and Unhealthy Patterns
What are some common unhealthy patterns that Dr. Ananda sees as a therapist?
“I think one of the biggest unhealthy patterns is having a sexual relationship too quickly without knowing the other person, agreeing on commitment to one another, or evaluating compatibility,” she said. “Another unhealthy pattern is depending on the other person to make you feel whole, special, or worthy.”
Relationship Red Flags
As for common red flags to look for in relationships?
“Some red flags are constant conflicts, complaints, and disagreements, no matter how big or small. Another red flag is being with someone who is often breaking engagements or exhibiting poor follow-through on shared goals or tasks. Lying, manipulating, and hiding behaviors are also red flags.
Of course, it may be hard at the start of a relationship, when everything seems new and exciting, to spot these sorts of issues. Did Dr. Ananda have any recommendations for how to be on the lookout for these red flags and unhealthy patterns? Yes. Her recommendation was to be open to letting a friend, family member, therapist, or other supportive person “evaluate how healthy the relationship is and whether it has potential for a happy future together.”
Clarifying Personal Values and Relationship Goals
What might this process look like? Are there steps or exercises that Dr. Ananda would recommend here?
“Spend time writing down the values you have and what values you want in a long-term partner,” she advised. “Journal a timeline history of relationships and find common patterns of dysfunction or poor decision-making. Work with a therapist who will give you assignments and feedback in these areas.”
Setting Boundaries and Prioritizing Self-Respect
This process of clarifying personal values and relationship goals is key to setting healthy boundaries and prioritizing self-respect—another step toward choosing the right people to date and fall in love with.
We asked Dr. Ananda for some tips for how to set healthy boundaries in relationships. Here is what she said:
First, couples need to learn how to evaluate how healthy their boundaries are with each other. After they can understand where they are at, they can then identify what goals they have in having healthier boundaries. Each person can identify their needs and share with each other what needs are not being met.
Choosing Healthy Relationships
People who fall for the same wrong type of person may struggle to put self-respect first, because they “may often be in a lot of turmoil during the relationship and are hyper-focused on making the relationship work.” Typically, this person is the one who ends up “heartbroken.”
This is why being intentional about setting healthy boundaries is so important. When you’ve been able to identify the boundaries that help you feel safe and have self-respect, those same boundaries can steer you in the direction of the right type of people and healthier relationships.
Seeking Support and Guidance for Healthy Relationship Choices
Support and guidance from “people who you see are healthy individuals and have shown an ability to have healthy relationships” is key to making healthy relationship choices, Dr. Ananda said.
“It helps to have a mixture of supports from those who know you well and also those who can be objective, such as a spiritual teacher or psychotherapist,” she added.
Attracting Positive Partners
Did Dr. Ananda have any more advice for how to attract positive partners? “First and foremost, take time learning about yourself, in particular your strengths, priorities and goals,” she said. “Make sure you know your unhealthy relationship patterns and be honest with yourself when you see yourself engaging in these patterns. And most importantly, work on loving yourself!”
When you’re loving yourself and living the life that you want to live, the right person is more likely to show up.
If relationship problems are affecting your mental health and quality of life, our experts at FHE Health may be able to help. Contact us anytime, day or night. Our counselors will be glad to assist you.