When we are attracted to unhealed people, it’s often because of unhealed wounds within ourselves. Learn more about working with intuition to unravel conditioning in relationships.
What, exactly, is attraction? We often think of it in terms of a romantic draw towards someone with particular looks, or a type, but as many of us have experienced, our romantic interest in someone has so much more to do with things like the way they talk, what they are interested in, their mannerisms, and other mysterious factors. What if one of those mysterious factors is our own deeply held attachment wounds? What if attraction actually is our wounds trying to heal?
As the philosopher Alain de Botton wrote pointedly in the New York Times for an essay titled “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person”: “Though we believe ourselves to be seeking happiness in marriage, it isn’t that simple. What we really seek is familiarity—which may well complicate any plans we might have had for happiness. We are looking to recreate, within our adult relationships, the feelings we knew so well in childhood. The love most of us will have tasted early on was often confused with other, more destructive dynamics: feelings of wanting to help an adult who was out of control, of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes.”
Looking for Healing Through Relationships
I deeply believe that our systems are always trying to heal, always trying to rebalance themselves. When our first love relationships—that is, with our caregivers—included a wound, we often seek out people who poke that very wound in an unconscious attempt to correct that early wrong. If we never felt loved by a caregiver, for example, we will tend to find ourselves inexplicably attracted to people who tend to withhold their love. If I can get this one to love me, some deeply secreted part of us whispers, I will prove myself to be lovable once and for all. There’s no point in getting love from someone who seems available and kind, someone who seems willing to give their love away, this part of you reasons. It wouldn’t correct the original wrong. Strange how someone available, kind, openhearted, and willing so often gives us that ineffable ick.
Of course, the irony is that continuing to repeat this pattern of seeking love from someone unavailable usually only succeeds in re-wounding rather than healing. While desperately trying to get the unavailable person to love us, we confuse anxiety with passion. Receiving love from someone available, who may feel nothing like the person we received the original wound from, is the much likelier path to healing. And yet it may not feel that way: Experiencing love, freely given, can feel very unfamiliar for those of us who didn’t experience that as children. We mistake this unfamiliarity as the ick, the feeling of not being attracted to someone.
Intuition Versus Conditioning
This is one of the most difficult places for many of us to sort out the difference between our intuitive gut feelings that someone is not for us and the knee-jerk reaction that says, Not this one! No point, this doesn’t poke the wound at all!
The good news is, we can work on this. The more we pay attention to our body reactions and the negotiation between our logical minds and our gut feelings, the better we can sort out what our guts are actually reacting to. When we can discover that voice deep inside desperately trying to fix what was broken when we were children, we can work with it directly, healing those wounds on our own terms, and keep our romantic partners out of that drama.
It can be frustrating when we find ourselves facing the same pattern over and over again and consistently getting hurt. It’s important that we understand that the meaning of that pattern isnot that we are fundamentally unlovable or that something is wrong with us. It’s simply that our systems have been trying to heal something, probably for our whole lives, and if we can attend to that wound ourselves, we may be able to have a whole other experience of love and attraction—and then whole new worlds become possible.
Explore more about attachment styles in relationships.