Do you have a string of romantic disasters trailing behind you? Do you often fall in love with the wrong person and your passion turns into devastation when you see your relationship inevitably fall apart? What gives? Don’t give up. You aren’t destined to die alone or in a dysfunctional relationship. You may be suffering from attractions of deprivation. The Imago model developed by Harville Hendrix states that we are attracted to those who embody the worst elements of our childhood caregivers, our parents or whoever raised us.
We have unresolved issues surrounding abuse, betrayal, neglect and manipulation from these caregivers. We desire to heal these wounds, subconsciously, and so seek out a mate with these qualities so that we may do so. Said another way, we are therefore most attracted to those who have the ability to hurt us psychologically the way we were hurt as children. Moreover, what ends up happening is instead of healing we get hurt in the exact same way, once again, this time by a lover instead of a caregiver. We want to have the same problem play out from our childhood but this time solve the problem instead of enduring the pain, and move past this incident, gaining closure and healing the old wound.
The first thing to do is to identify the negative qualities that pull you in in the first place. Look for qualities that all of your exes who matched this pattern had in common. If you are unsure ask friends, family members and confidants. Next, identify these exact same qualities in your childhood caregivers. Write them down in a list. Call it “My Attractions of Deprivation.” Write down anything that annoyed, upset or hurt you. Don’t worry if you were at fault in some instances, too. Just write them down. Put in physical characteristics that are attractive too but negative like over-confident swagger. Next, get another piece of paper. Entitle it “Profile of my Attractions of Deprivation.” Write down the exact type of person you are attracted to using these qualities. Notice that these exact qualities are both what turn you on and what end up stifling the relationship, such as arrogance. On the flip side, that person doesn’t care about you the way you do them. They aren’t considerate and don’t support you or make room in their lives for you. If you can’t think of anything, ask your friends. They’ll have a ton of things to tell you.
Underneath write “My Gifts.” Write down all of the positive qualities your exes never took the time to get to know about you. These are the very things that get stifled in these relationships. They are holding you back from personal growth. Keep this with you and the next time you are attracted to someone who is wrong for you, turn away. Find people you are attracted to instead, those that inspire you not deprive you. For more advice read, How to Avoid Falling in Love with A Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart without Losing Your Mind by John Van Epp, Ph.D.