Why Do Some People Choose One Bad Relationship After Another?
Copyright 2009 by Richard A. Grossman, Ph.D.    All Rights reserved    E-Mail: ragrossman@voicelessness.com
Some people unwittingly choose destructive relationships over and over again. The consequences of their choices are painful and emotionally damaging, yet those that engage in this repetitive behavior never seem to learn from their experience. Instead they go from one bad partner to the next, much to the chagrin of those closest to them (including therapists) who pull their hair out trying to stop them. Why does this happen?

Traditional psychoanalytic theory offered an intriguing, yet seemingly unlikely explanation for such self-destructive relationship choices.   People who choose such partners must derive pleasure from being mistreated.  Simply stated, the choosers are masochistic.  If the "pleasure principle" drives people, as analysts argued, certainly this behavior follows the same rules.  The therapist's task was to make the unconscious pleasure known to the patient--and then they would be free to choose a more appropriate partner.

Yet, in my years of doing therapy, I  never found any client who received any pleasure at all, conscious or unconscious, from the abuse and neglect heaped on them by narcissistic or otherwise destructive partners.  Rather, my clients were simply hurt over and over again.  Still, the "repetition compulsion" was true enough:  no sooner had a client ended with one particularly hurtful person then they found another wolf in sheep's clothing.  There had to be a good reason.  Here's what my clients have taught me over the years.

People who have not been given "voice" in childhood have the lifelong task of repairing the "self." This is an endless construction project with major cost overruns (much like the "Big Dig" in Boston).  Much of this repair work involves getting people to

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Voicelessness and Emotional Survival

Why Do Some People Choose One Bad Relationship After Another?
Voicelessness and
Emotional Survival