Calling me a hopeless romantic is an understatement. Perhaps because I’m a writer, I spend a lot of time in my imagination. And like most women, I’ve done my fair share of fantasizing about how I’ll meet my Prince Charming. Some of my friends dream of locking eyes over a coffee at Starbucks. For others, their hat blows off into the wind and is picked up by a handsome stranger. Personally, I prefer less damsel-in-distress and more “meeting cute,” like accidentally falling into his lap on the subway. Maybe that’s because I commute every day and my daydream is realistic to a certain extent.
There are fantasies—and there are realities. And after reflecting on my dating escapades over the past year, I noticed a pattern. The story was always the same: I meet a guy and there’s a strong mutual attraction. We go on a few dates and the chemistry is off the charts. I get swept up in the excitement, hopelessly lost in lustland. Soon enough, the excitement fades and I’m on to the next adventure. Thriving on the novelty and change that comes with a new love interest, I forget the wise words, “Look before you leap.” I’ve thought that maybe I should get a tattoo as a reminder.
Part of the problem was obvious: I was attracted to men who could hold my interest for only a short while and who were not on the same page emotionally. But there was also something much deeper going on. My family and friends have tried to be supportive by saying “It’s not you, it’s them” and encouraging me not to take each failed relationship personally. And while this is certainly helpful in the moment, it has hurt me over the long term. I knew I had to accept responsibility for my part in all this if I really wanted to be in a healthy, committed relationship. So I started doing some research to rewire my approach to dating.
Why does history keep repeating itself? According to Freud’s repetition compulsion theory, when people relive traumatic events over and over again it represents an attempt at mastery and control. Revisiting harmful behavior, which in my case is entering unhealthy relationships, is a misguided effort to right the wrongs of the past. In other words, by continuously dating emotionally unavailable men, I’m trying to prove to myself that I can tame the player. But sadly, I keep setting myself up to fail.
After reflecting on the reasons why I was attracted to certain men, I realized that my underlying issue was dating with my ego instead of my heart. While the heart seeks comfort and contentment, the ego seeks approval and validation. I was drawn to men who posed a challenge in some way. Essentially, winning a guy’s attention and affection—even for the short term—would make me feel good about myself and prove my worthiness. In the past, after finally “winning him over,” I tended to get bored and found that it was only a matter of time before I moved on to the next one. Hence, my love life was a revolving door.
If I want a healthy, long-term relationship, I’m going to have to let my heart guide the way and keep my ego out of it. Although obtaining power and control is enticing, finding true love and a committed relationship is the ultimate prize. I have faith that I’ll find it one day.
Spoiler Alert: I wrote this article a few weeks ago, and as luck would have it, I met an amazing guy. And guess where it happened? I’ll give you a hint: It’s one of the three places I mention in the beginning of the article.